East Africa: Refugee Update, 10/04/01

East Africa: Refugee Update, 10/04/01

East Africa: Refugee Update Date distributed (ymd): 011004 Document reposted by APIC

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Region: East Africa Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+


This set of two postings contains an update from the U.S. Committee for Refugees on the situation of refugees and internally displaced people in central and east Africa. This posting contains details on several countries in east Africa. Another posting today includes the overview and additional details on several countries in central Africa. The detailed country sections are here abridged for length. The full report can be found on the U.S. Committee for Refugees web site at

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SOMALIA UPDATE: FIRST NINE MONTHS OF 2001 (Updated by USCR October 1, 2001)


Civil war and factional fighting have persisted in much of Somalia since 1988, causing Somalia to produce one of Africa's largest refugee populations during the past decade. The country lacked a functioning national government during most of the 1990s, creating a situation that many international observers characterized as national anarchy. Numerous warlords head clan-based factions that compete violently for political and economic control of Somali territory. Northwest Somalia announced its independence from the rest of the country in 1991 and named itself "Somaliland." Leaders in northeast Somalia formed an autonomous territory named "Puntland" in 1998. Neither Somaliland nor Puntland has received international political recognition.

In 2000, a fragile new national government formed in the capital, Mogadishu. The new governing body, known as the Transitional National Government, immediately encountered armed opposition from local warlords, some of whom continued to control large parts of the capital, Mogadishu, as well as significant territory outside the capital.

At the start of 2001, some 300,000 to 350,000 Somali refugees continued to live in about two-dozen countries of asylum. An equal number of Somalis remained internally displaced. Hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees have repatriated since the mid-1990s despite their country's turmoil.

Political / Military / Human Rights Developments through September

Violence worsened in many parts of Somalia during the first nine months of 2001. The Transitional National Government struggled to exert its authority and ward off attacks by armed factions. The autonomous region of Puntland suffered an internal power struggle and its worst violence in six years.

Nine persons died in January during an ambush attempt against an official of the national government--one of several armed attacks that targeted government officials. Clashes between armed factions in Mogadishu left 50 persons dead in May. A resumption of clan violence killed 17 persons in the capital in a single day in June. Two days of battles in Mogadishu killed 40 to 70 people in July, according to various reports. Scores of people died in the capital in September when a discarded anti-aircraft missile exploded. Outside Mogadishu, nearly 30 died in fighting in May, and battles south of Mogadishu during July to September reportedly killed 200 people and triggered population flight. Anti-government forces temporarily captured the key southern port city of Kismayo in mid-year.

The UN Security Council stated that "the security situation in Somalia is still a cause for serious concern." Negotiations between the Transitional National Government and opposing factions in June produced no results. Neighboring Kenya banned cross-border trading with Somalia in July for the second time in two years, citing security concerns.

Northwest Somalia--Somaliland--remained an area of relative peace, although it, too, suffered isolated political violence and demonstrations in mid-2001. Residents of Somaliland voted 97 percent in favor of independence and a new constitution in a May referendum. Somalia's government in Mogadishu called the referendum "illegal."

New Uprooted Populations through September

Recurring armed clashes caused Somali families in central and southern regions to flee their homes during the first nine months of 2001. Thousands of others left their homes because of crop failures. Accurate estimates of the country's new population displacement were impossible, however, because general insecurity prevented international aid agencies from functioning in many areas. Many uprooted southerners have relocated to peaceful regions such as Somaliland. ...

Humanitarian Conditions through September

Restrictions on humanitarian aid programs forced by years of insecurity continued to hamper thorough assessments of humanitarian conditions in much of Somalia. Aid agencies cancelled several food assessment missions scheduled in early 2001. "Humanitarian access in southern Somalia is at its lowest ebb...since 1995," a UN report stated in April. ...

Despite successful harvests during 2000, serious food shortages loomed by mid-2001 because of new crop failures caused by poor rainfall and pest infestations. The UN World Food Program (WFP) announced an "early warning of a very serious food situation" in June and cited a need for 40,000 tons of food relief for up to a half-million Somalis in August. Other food analysts reported that half the population in the worst-affected areas would suffer a 40 percent food shortfall. In Somaliland's main city, Hargeisa, crowded camps for returnees suffered 15 percent child malnutrition rates in August.

More than 100,000 Somali refugees in neighboring Kenya also suffered food shortages because of reduced food donations by international donors. Somali refugees in Kenya received two-thirds rations and threatened a hunger strike to publicize their plight. The number of malnourished children in the Kenyan camps doubled during the first half of 2001, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Only 14 percent of Somalia's school-age children attended school, UNICEF reported in July. The country's annual cholera outbreak afflicted nearly 900 people in the first four months of the year. The entire country--particularly Somaliland--continued to suffer economic consequences from a ban on Somali cattle imposed last year by Somalia's trading partners in the Persian Gulf, who fear that the cattle are diseased. Tens of thousands of Somali refugees who have repatriated to Somaliland in recent years continued to struggle to rebuild their lives amid dim economic prospects. ...

Approximately 300,000 refugees remained outside the country as of September 2001, and an estimated 350,000 Somalis remained internally displaced, according to relief workers.

SUDAN UPDATE: FIRST NINE MONTHS OF 2001 (updated by USCR October 1, 2001)


Sudan's civil war has endured for 18 years. Rebel armies in southern Sudan continue to fight against Sudanese government forces and their militia in a bid for political autonomy or independence for southern Sudan. The long war is complicated by violent military and ethnic divisions among southerners. Numerous southern commanders have repeatedly changed allegiances during the conflict, and some northern groups opposed to the government have formed a military alliance with southern rebels. The combination of constant war and periodic droughts has caused serious food shortages. The government and rebel armies have manipulated massive amounts of international relief aid that flows into the country.

The war has left an estimated 2 million persons dead in southern and central Sudan since 1983. At the beginning of 2001, approximately 4 million Sudanese were internally displaced, and 420,000 Sudanese were refugees in neighboring countries. Despite the war, some 360,000 refugees from other countries resided in Sudan.

Political / Military / Human Rights Developments through September

The war persisted during the first nine months of 2001. Rebels launched a military offensive in the south's Bahr el-Ghazal Province, capturing two towns. Pro-government militia also launched attacks in Bahr el-Ghazal Province. Armed clashes continued near oil fields in southern Sudan's Western Upper Nile Province pitting government forces, pro-government militia, rebels, and anti-rebel southern troops against each other. Splits within the local ethnic Nuer population also fed the violence.

The government continued to extract oil in the war zone, providing the government with substantial new revenue that enabled it to double its military expenditures compared to 1998. Human rights advocates charged that the government military used airplane runways and roads built by international oil companies to attack the local population. "Across the oil-rich regions of Sudan, the government is pursuing a 'scorched earth' policy to clear the land of civilians and to make way for the exploration and exploitation of oil by foreign oil companies," a report by a British relief agency, Christian Aid, stated in early 2001.

Government planes continued to bomb civilian and humanitarian sites in southern Sudan, although reportedly less frequently than last year. ...

The U.S. government continued a thorough review of its policy toward Sudan. In September, President Bush appointed former U.S. Senator John Danforth as a special envoy to search for peace in Sudan. "Sudan is a disaster for all human rights. We must turn the eyes of the world upon the atrocities in Sudan," Bush said. The Bush Administration stated in April that improved relations with Sudan hinged on an end to the Sudanese government's aerial bombings of civilian targets, fewer restrictions by Sudanese authorities on humanitarian aid deliveries to the south, and elimination of international terrorist organizations based in Sudan. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the "Sudan Peace Act" in June, which would attempt to bar international oil companies from operating in Sudan. A Senate version of the bill was still under consideration. In late September, the UN Security Council lifted sanctions in effect since 1996 against Sudanese diplomats and Sudanese aircraft. ...

New Uprooted Populations through September

Many of Sudan's 4.4 million uprooted people have fled repeatedly from place to place during the course of the long civil war. At least 150,000 additional people became uprooted during the first eight months of 2001, according information pieced together from various field reports.

Aid workers reported that 55,000 newly displaced people fled from 48 villages in southern Sudan's conflicted oil zone during 2000 and early 2001. A rebel military offensive in Bahr el-Ghazal Province in early 2001 pushed 50,000 people from their homes. Some 40,000 residents of central Sudan's Nuba Mountains region fled government military attacks during the first eight months of the year. Smaller numbers of people fled their homes temporarily because of aerial bombing attacks.

Humanitarian Conditions through September

"There is perhaps no greater tragedy on the face of the earth today," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stated at a congressional hearing about Sudan in March. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom warned at the same hearing that "the situation in Sudan has grown worse."

The UN World Food Program (WFP) stated that "we have a looming crisis on our hands," with 3 million Sudanese nationwide facing food shortages. "The food security situation is worsening more quickly than expected," WFP warned. Humanitarian aid workers expressed concern about potential famine in Western Upper Nile Province of southern Sudan. The town of Bentiu, a magnet for displaced families in Sudan's oil-producing region, suffered 24 percent malnutrition, according to WFP. Inadequate distributions of food relief triggered violence among competing populations and competing armies in Western Upper Nile Province, prompting some local leaders there to request that food deliveries be suspended. Crop failures and livestock deaths in and near the key southern town of Juba might worsen malnutrition among 200,000 local residents, one international relief agency reported in February. Catholic bishops in southern Sudan urged aid agencies to establish emergency feeding centers in addition to aid drops of food to assist 30,000 newly uprooted people from 17 villages. WFP reported that it was able to deliver 12,000 tons of food aid during May -- less than half the 28,000 tons needed by local populations.

Funding shortages and security risks continued to impede humanitarian efforts during the first nine months of 2001. WFP appealed to international donors for $135 million but received only a fraction of that amount. Sudanese government officials regularly blocked relief assistance to about 15 locations and placed new restrictions on UN humanitarian flights to the village of Mapel, a key staging point for relief flights in the south. ...

UGANDA UPDATE: FIRST NINE MONTHS OF 2001 (Updated by USCR October 1, 2001)


Despite relative peace and economic growth in large sections of Uganda, insurgencies and violent communal clashes have plagued three areas of the country for years. An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 people have died in more than a decade of violence.

In northern Uganda, an insurgent force known as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and counterinsurgency tactics by the Ugandan government army have forced approximately 400,000 persons from their homes. In northeastern Uganda, violence clashes over land use and cattle-raiding have displaced up to 80,000 residents in the past two years. In southwestern Uganda, a rebel force known as the Alliance for Democratic Forces (ADF) has uprooted as many as 100,000 people.

Insurgents have kidnapped thousands of women and children during the past ten years, pressing many of them into service as combatants, servants, and involuntary sexual partners. Insurgent attacks have killed more than 100 of the 200,000 refugees from Sudan who live in northern Uganda.

Political / Military / Human Rights Developments through September

Attacks by insurgents became less frequent during the first nine months of 2001 but did not disappear completely. Although some displaced Ugandans cautiously returned to their homes, the vast majority of uprooted people remained uprooted.

The LRA appeared to weaken in early 2001 because of stronger military actions by Ugandan government forces and deteriorating relations between the LRA and its main supporter, the Sudanese government. Uganda's military crossed into southern Sudan to hunt and attack LRA combatants. Ugandan officials met with LRA combatants in mid-year to discuss amnesty for the insurgents.

LRA troops--many of them children who were abducted and forced to become combatants--remained capable of launching several deadly raids during mid-2001. ...

In southwestern Uganda, government officials claimed that they had virtually eliminated ADF insurgents from the area. Isolated attacks by insurgents or bandits continued, but less frequently. A camp for displaced persons suffered an attack in August.

In northeastern Uganda, relative peace in the first three months of 2001 gave way to renewed communal violence in April that reportedly forced thousands of local residents to flee again.

New Uprooted Populations through September

The number of internally displaced Ugandans declined during the first nine months of 2001 because of slightly improved security in some areas and a new registration procedure in the north that enabled improved estimates of the displaced population. ... An estimated 500,000 Ugandans remained internally displaced nationwide as of September.

Thousands of new refugees from neighboring countries entered Uganda during the first nine months of 2001. Some 5,000 new refugees from Sudan reportedly arrived in northern Uganda, joining the estimated 200,000 Sudanese refugees already living in Uganda. About 5,000 new refugees from neighboring Congo-Kinshasa--and their 25,000 head of cattle--entered southwestern Uganda, bringing the Congolese refugee population in the country to nearly 15,000. Some 7,000 asylum seekers from Rwanda arrived in Uganda, many of them after living in Tanzania or after transiting through that country. ...

Humanitarian Conditions through September

Most displaced Ugandans in the north continued to live in what government officials called "protected villages" guarded by government troops. Many displaced families have lived in the protected villages involuntarily since 1996, while others have resided there voluntarily. A partial new census in mid-year concluded that the size of the uprooted population in the north was 20 percent smaller than officials and aid workers had previously reported.

Local religious leaders publicly criticized "appalling conditions" in the government's protected villages and complained that the living conditions among displaced populations had eroded family structures and encouraged prostitution. A new UN report warned that sexual violence and HIV/AIDS were problems at displacement sites. Ugandan President Yoweri Musevini acknowledged in July that poverty in the north has worsened during the past three years. A decade of insurgency, counterinsurgency, and widespread population upheaval in the north have crippled economic activity in what was previously regarded as an agriculturally rich area.

Government officials suggested moving uprooted families from large, crowded camps to smaller sites, but funding constraints posed a serious obstacle to the plan. ...

In southwestern Uganda, some displaced persons returned to their homes in and near the town of Bundibugyo. ... A UN report in April suggested that the relief emergency in the southwest no longer existed and that humanitarian aid programs should emphasize long-term rehabilitation and development.

In northeastern Uganda, up to 90,000 displaced persons resided in 46 camps, according to UN aid officials. A mid-year UN report cited poor conditions at the isolated camps and charged that Ugandan authorities largely ignored the displaced population's humanitarian needs. Many northeastern camps offered no health care, leading to growing concerns about malaria and other diseases.


Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Action" <> Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2001 14:11:41 -0500 Subject: East Africa: Refugee Update

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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