Friday October 14, 2005 07:39 - (SA)
KHARTOUM - A senior United Nations (UN) official has warned that insecurity, lack of resources and absence of infrastructure in south Sudan are constant threats to refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are trying to go home.
As thousands of southerners displaced during the civil war that broke out in 2003 are beginning to make their way back home, many still fear for their security and face a severe lack of basic resources.
"The lack of resources and infrastructure, the volatile security situation and the absence of solid state structures in the south pose serious threats to the human rights of returnees and IDPs," said Walter Kalin, representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights of IDPs.
Following a 10-day tour of IDPs camps in Sudan, Kalin noted at a press conference that the Sudanese government, the international community and donors "need to do much more to ensure the protection of the rights of those persons".
He called upon all concerned parties and institutions to respect the rights of IDPs, "including the right to be fully informed and consulted about available options and to freely choose whether they want to return, locally integrate or resettle elsewhere".
The UN representative, who toured IDP camps in Khartoum and the south, said the returnees "fear for their safety due to militia activities, armed civilians and land mines", and when they arrive, many remain without shelter, sufficient food, water, medical or education services.
To guarantee the safety of the returnees, "every effort should be undertaken to remove militias integrated into the Joint/Integrated units from areas of return and to demobilise armed elements," Kalin said.
Sudan is home to some six million internally displaced people - who are distinguished from refugees by the fact that they do not cross international borders. It has the biggest displaced population in the world.
Around four million IDPs come from the south and were displaced as a result of the country's 21-year civil war.
Most of the rest come from Darfur, the western region where a separate conflict has been raging since 2003.
UN officials have warned that a north-south peace accord signed in January could fall apart if chaos ensues in the south due to the lack of sufficient infrastructure and resources for the masses trying to return home.