Home | News    Tuesday 31 January 2012

Ethiopia says 17,000 Sudanese refugees returned home

January 30, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Some 17,000 Sudanese refugees recently returned to their homeland in Blue Nile state, announced the Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on Monday.

Fighting broke out between the Sudanese army and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N) in Blue Nile state on the first day of September 2011, as a direct result of clashes with Khartoum in South Kordofan state which began in June of last year.

In a speech reported by the national news agency at the launch of International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) report for 2011 in the Ethiopian capital, Hailemariam said his country received some 35,000 Sudanese refugees who fled the violence.

However he said that 17,000 Sudanese have now voluntarily returned to their homeland, stressing that Ethiopia is pursuing a policy of receiving immigrants that are coming to its land and providing care until their problems are resolved.

The Sudanese army in November retook the control of all the big towns and inhabited areas in Blue Nile from the SPLM-N fighters. With the seizure of Kurmuk, the main rebel stronghold town in the state, the group now controls small areas at the border with South Sudan.

Ethiopia who leads the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional organisation tried to mediate the government and the rebel group but failed to reconcile the positions of the two parties.

The fight between Khartoum and the SPLM-N, who have historical relations with Juba’s ruling party, might ignite armed conflict with the newly independent South Sudan, as the latter also has differences with Sudan.

The continued fighting between Sudan and the SPLM-N particularly in the South Kordofan state pushed the international community to predict a new humanitarian crisis in the region as the UN officials say over 500,000 refugees are expected to flee the region.