More than 350,000 Sudanese were refugees in six countries at the end of 1997: an estimated 160,000 in Uganda, about 60,000 in Congo/Zaire, 60,000 in Ethiopia, 40,000 in Kenya, 32,000 in Central African Republic, and about 1,000 in Egypt. Up to 4 million Sudanese were internally displaced, although some estimates put the number much lower. Large additional numbers of Sudanese were outside Sudan without formal refugee status. Sudan hosted approximately 365,000 refugees from neighboring countries: about 320,000 from Eritrea, 40,000 from Ethiopia, more than 4,000 from Chad, and 1,000 from other countries. During 1997, Sudan's civil war continued in the south and spread into the northeast. A cycle of displacement and malnourishment among the civilian population persisted. USCR conducted two site visits to Sudan in 1997. Pre-1997 Events The immense country of Sudan has long experienced conflict between north and south because of racial, cultural, religious, and political differences. The current phase of Sudan's civil war has persisted for 14 years; for the past 8 years, it has pitted the military forces of the hard-line government and the National Islamic Front (NIF) and its allies, against the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and its allies. The NIF is the radical Arab Islamic fundamentalist party in northern Sudan. The SPLA has drawn support primarily from black African southern Sudanese, who are mostly Christians or adherents of traditional religions. The SPLA is a participant in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), an umbrella group that represents seven political groups opposed to the NIF government, including Islamic Sudanese nationalists. The military alliance between the SPLA and the NDA solidified in 1996 when both forces collaborated to open a significant military front in northeast Sudan for the first time, seizing several towns. Civilian populations have been targeted and exploited by all sides in the war. A 1993 USCR study concluded that 1.3 million southern Sudanese had died otherwise avoidable deaths since 1983 due to war, war-related famine and disease, and Sudanese government policies. The government has regularly blocked or harassed humanitarian relief operations; rebels have also impeded relief efforts at times. The government regularly bombed civilian targets throughout the south, including displaced-person camps and hospitals; ethnic-based militia also have attacked camps. Various rebel factions have exploited camp populations for food and recruitment of new soldiers. Politics and War‹1997 In January, the united forces of the SPLA and the NDA launched military offensives in north and northeastern Sudan, seizing several towns from the NIF. In March, in renewed fighting with pro-government forces in the south, the SPLA gained control of several key government-held areas, including the garrison towns of Yei and Kajo Kaji. By year's end, the SPLA controlled much of Western Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal Provinces. In April, the Sudanese government signed a "peace agreement" with five former rebel groups with which it was already aligned, including the Southern Sudan Independence Movement, a splinter group of the SPLA. In October, the first peace talks between the government and the SPLA in almost three years ended with the government proposing a federal system, but rejecting the SPLA's call for a confederation. The SPLA and NDA rejected the government's call for a cease-fire. A UN Commission on Human Rights report noted that "all Sudanese citizens living in areas controlled by the government of Sudan are potential victims of human rights abuses" and that "the basic trend of the past years toward a deterioration of the situation of human rights in the Sudan has not been altered." The United States urged the UN commission to pressure the Sudanese government to comply with international human rights law and reduce restrictions on international relief organizations. The United States also increased diplomatic pressure on Sudan, imposing economic sanctions against the NIF in November. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met in December with SPLA leader John Garang and other NDA leaders, and criticized the Sudanese government's support of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group in Uganda in opposition to the SPLA and its allies. On November 4, the U.S. government granted temporary protected status to Sudanese nationals. Having long advocated for temporary safe haven for Sudanese, USCR praised the measure as "long overdue but welcome nonetheless." Repatriation of Sudanese Refugees In January, spurred by war in Congo/Zaire, some 2,000 Sudanese refugees who had fled to Congo/Zaire in 1990-91 repatriated to Sudan, congregating along the border in towns such as Yei, where they received humanitarian assistance. An estimated 50,000 Sudanese refugees repatriated from Uganda following the SPLA capture of key towns in the south, although estimates of the number who repatriated ranged as high as 80,000. Uganda's two largest Sudanese refugee camps, Koboko and Ifake, were reportedly almost emptied of their populations. By April, about two-thirds of the refugees reportedly had returned to their homes in Yei and about one-third had repatriated to Kajo Kaji. More Sudanese refugees repatriated in September following attacks against their camps in Uganda. Internal Displacement Years of warfare have left up to 1.5 million Sudanese internally displaced in the south, according to some estimates. In addition, as many as 1.8 million Sudanese‹many of them southerners uprooted by the war during the 1980s‹have migrated to Khartoum, the capital. Hundreds of thousands more were internally displaced in central Sudan, in the Nuba Mountain region. Although some families were able to return to home areas during 1997, new population displacement occurred at other locations. Renewed military offensives in the south pushed thousands from their homes, but the SPLA's territorial gains also encouraged the reintegration of several thousand displaced persons. Aerial bombing by government planes occurred regularly and increased in frequency following SPLA military gains in the south. The government bombed the southern town of Yei four times in the weeks after the SPLA retook it. In July, a government aerial attack on Labone, where an estimated 32,000 internally displaced persons lived near the Ugandan border, killed at least 14 people and injured 12 others. A displaced person camp in Labone was also attacked in November by the LRA, which reportedly burned more than 300 houses, killed about 35 people, and wounded 25 others. Sources estimated in 1996 that up to 90,000 displaced persons remained in southern Sudan's largest town, Juba, controlled by government forces, and as many as 170,000 displaced persons lived in 16 camps scattered throughout the south. No updated figure was available for 1997. Juba suffered severe food shortages in April, but NIF forces blocked town residents from leaving. The SPLA/NDA military offensive in the northeast and subsequent government acts of retaliation displaced at least 45,000 people from some 23 villages in the Blue Nile area. By February, some 40,000 internally displaced persons were living in poor conditions in Port Sudan, about 40,000 were in Sinakti, and approximately 50,000 displaced people had settled in Toker, according to one agency. In the Nuba Mountain area of central Sudan, thousands of ethnic Nuba occupied special government-controlled camps‹described as "concentration camps" by international human rights workers‹where they have been subjected to forced labor and sexual abuse. Credible accounts of slavery have continued to surface during the 1990s. "Slavery [is] a thriving practice in Sudan, and the government of Sudan actively encourages it," a human rights agency reported in 1996. The government of Sudan began a new offensive in February, displacing an estimated 6,000 Nuba people. Continued government attacks on the Nuba in May and June reportedly displaced an additional 30,000 to 50,000 people. In the Khartoum area, government officials continued a forcible relocation policy during 1997. Approximately three-quarters of a million persons have been forcibly removed from the Khartoum area since 1992, often at gunpoint. Many of the families were southern Sudanese who had migrated to Khartoum in the 1980s to escape war in their home areas. The displaced in Khartoum lived in official displaced-person camps, squatter areas, and settlement areas. The official camps, created by the government in 1991, have better health, water, and educational services than the other areas, where conditions are poor. The government demolished several camps during the year, however, in an effort to move the displaced to settlement areas. Humanitarian Relief Massive humanitarian needs in Sudan, particularly in the south, overwhelmed international relief efforts in 1997, as in previous years. Drought-induced crop failures in some regions, and floods in other regions, exacerbated the adverse humanitarian impact of war and abusive government policies. The repatriation of some 50,000 Sudanese refugees from Uganda also stretched the cash-strapped resources of humanitarian relief agencies. More than 30 international and local relief agencies provided aid to southern Sudan as part of a UN-coordinated program called Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS). Additional relief groups provided assistance independent of the UN program. OLS was able to provide only 20 percent of the relief food needed from April to June. Logistical obstacles, funding constraints, and restrictions placed on OLS by the Sudanese government‹such as limiting access to civilians in select strategic locations‹impeded the program's effectiveness. By mid-year, UNICEF's OLS operations had received only 11 percent of the $14.6 million required from international donors to implement its emergency programs for 2 million displaced and war-affected Sudanese, including 1 million in the south. From March to mid-June, the government of Sudan banned use of C-130 aircraft used for air-dropping food to remote regions in Sudan, increasing malnutrition levels in those areas. Flights were again restricted for weeks at a time in July and November. Restrictions placed on the relief efforts had serious consequences. Malnutrition at four key sites in the south‹Malakal, Wau, southern Kordofan, and Juba‹ranged as high as 24 percent in May, according to OLS. A WFP assessment in October found severe malnutrition in Lugware, in the south. Displaced populations in northeast Sudan also suffered malnutrition rates as high as 21 percent in rural areas. Mid-year surveys revealed an outbreak of sleeping sickness affecting from 19 percent to 27 percent of the population in the southern province of Western Equatoria. In September, the SPLA curtailed the relief efforts of an NGO, Action Contre la Faim, after the agency began to investigate why malnutrition rates were high in Labone despite large Refugees from Eritrea Most Eritrean refugees fled to Sudan in the 1980s or earlier to escape civil war and famine. Some have been in Sudan 30 years. Approximately 320,000 were living in Sudan at year's end. Despite peace in Eritrea, organized repatriation of Eritrean refugees has proceeded slowly, and remained stalled during 1997. About 130,000 Eritrean refugees are believed to have left Sudan since 1991, most with no international assistance. UNHCR's organized repatriation program began in late 1994 and assisted the return home of nearly 25,000 persons during 1994-95. The border with Eritrea was officially closed early in 1997. In April, Eritrea expelled UNHCR international staff over disagreements about the repatriation. Although no organized repatriation occurred during 1997, some 700 Eritreans returned home from Sudan without assistance, according to UNHCR. Financial disputes over the scope of the repatriation program, and deteriorating relations between the governments of Sudan and Eritrea, have contributed to the slow pace of repatriation. The two countries severed diplomatic relations in 1995. In 1997, the government of Eritrea requested details of all Eritrean refugees in Sudan before restarting the repatriation. No information was available about whether Sudan's civil war affected refugees in northeast Sudan during the year. Approximately one-third of the refugees lived in about 25 settlements in eastern Sudan. Some 200,000 others lived in Sudan's larger towns and urban areas. Although many refugee families were largely self-sufficient, they struggled to cope with land shortages and declining land productivity. About 55,000 refugee children attended school. Nine out of ten Eritrean refugees want to repatriate eventually, according to a survey published in 1996 by the Life and Peace Institute. About 85 percent of refugee households in Sudan indicated that assistance levels in Eritrea would be a major determinant in their decision whether to go home. Lack of transportation assistance was the primary impediment to repatriation for 17 percent of the refugees, according to the survey. More than half of the refugee households not living in Khartoum have sent a family member to visit Eritrea to assess conditions, the study found. Refugees from Ethiopia Most Ethiopian refugees fled to Sudan in the 1980s to escape civil war and human rights abuses occurring in Ethiopia at that time. Estimates of the actual number of Ethiopian refugees in 1997 ranged from as many as 50,000 to as few as 15,000. About 15,000 lived at settlement sites and camps, while others lived on their own in urban areas. About 65,000 Ethiopians have officially repatriated from Sudan in the past five years, including nearly 7,000 who repatriated in 1997 with UNHCR assistance. UNHCR had hoped to repatriate two or three times that many refugees from Sudan during the year, but governmental delays, financial constraints, and roads closed by rains hampered repatriation efforts. About 15,000 of the 40,000 Ethiopians remaining in Sudan are expected to repatriate in 1998.

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