May 18, 2012 / 3:30 PM / 7 years ago

REFILE-History repeats as war pushes Sudanese to Kenya

(Refiles to add TV, pix availability)

* Some 1,200 S.Sudanese refugees arrive each month

* Swampy conditions bad for health, U.N. says

* Refugee matters “not popular” among locals - U.N.

By Katy Migiro

NAIROBI, May 18 (AlertNet) - When Nyajany Kutil left Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp to return home to South Sudan in 2008, she did not imagine that war would force her back across the border again so soon.

But the exodus is repeating itself less than a year after South Sudan celebrated its independence from Sudan, dashing hopes of an end to five decades of war.

About 1,200 South Sudanese refugees are arriving in Kakuma camp each month, fleeing conflict and hunger in the world’s newest nation.

“When I came here in 2005, we had a lot of war,” Kutil, 20, said, seated on a wooden bench with her five-year-old daughter, waiting to register with Kenya’s Department of Refugee Affairs.

Kutil’s parents were killed in a night-time raid on their village, forcing the teenage girl to seek sanctuary in Kakuma, 120 km (75 miles) south of the border.

In 2008, she and her two young daughters were among the 50,000 South Sudanese refugees repatriated from Kenya, keen to rebuild their lives following a 2005 peace deal which led to a referendum on southern independence last July.

“When I returned to Sudan, I got the same war. So I am here. I don’t have any other place to go,” Kutil said.

Last month, her husband and four-year-old daughter were killed when raiders burned down their village in South Sudan’s troubled Jonglei State.

“I don’t have any hope to return back to South Sudan. I would like to stay in Kenya because I do not see any war here,” she said.

HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF

Many of those who are coming back have been here before, said Guy Avognon, the United Nations (U.N.) refugee agency’s head of office in Kakuma. “It’s history repeating itself.”

Like Kutil, the majority of new arrivals come from Jonglei where 170,000 people have been affected by interethnic conflict since late 2011.

“The journey was very hard. We suffered. There was no food and no water. We were scared so we used to run at night,” said Nyibol Mariar, 40, sitting on a mat in the camp’s reception centre with her eight surviving children.

Her first born son and husband were killed in a night-time raid on their village in Jonglei.

Kakuma receives 100 new arrivals each day. With a population approaching 97,000, the camp is likely to reach its 100,000 capacity in the next few weeks.

“We have never reached that number even at the peak of the Sudan crisis prior to the referendum,” Avognon said.

“The only place to accommodate these new arrivals is swampy,” he added, warning that such unsanitary conditions were likely to make people sick.

Some 60 percent of new arrivals are from South Sudan, 16 percent from Sudan and the remainder from neighbouring states like Somalia and Ethiopia.

Most Sudanese are coming from South Kordofan on the oil-rich, disputed border between the two Sudans. Rebels who fought on the side of South Sudan during the 1983-2005 war are fighting the Khartoum government once again, causing widespread displacement and hunger.

The United Nations and the local community have identified a new site called Kalobeyey with capacity for 80,000 people, 25 km from Kakuma.

But Kenya’s ministry of internal security has yet to authorise the U.N. to start building an access road to the site.

“Refugee matters are not very popular here. People immediately see the security side of it. The government is very cautious,” Avognon said.

The U.N. predicts that Kakuma will receive between 30,000 and 50,000 new arrivals in the next 12 months, largely because of interethnic feuds.

"If Kakuma remains the main destination of new arrivals, I don't see how we are going to cope in the next dry season," said Avognon, adding that water shortages could lead to conflict with the host community in Kenya's arid north-west. (AlertNet is a humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit www.trust.org/alertnet) (Editing by James Macharia and Michael Roddy)

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