The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

UN: 2.8M people in Sudan could be displaced if fighting breaks out over January vote

  • Print

JUBA, Sudan - The U.N. is planning for the possibility that 2.8 million people will be displaced in Sudan if fighting breaks out over the south's January independence referendum, according to an internal report reviewed by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Just over two weeks remain before voters in Southern Sudan decide whether to remain with the Khartoum-based north or — more likely — to secede and create the world's newest country.

Related Items

Tensions are high over the vote. Aircraft from the northern Sudanese military have bombed areas in the south or near disputed north-south borders in recent weeks, and the U.N. report said both the northern and southern militaries have been rearming, and that many southerners possess guns and light weapons.

Both militaries have reinforced their positions along the border in recent months, hindering aid work, the report said. If either the north or the south doesn't accept the results of the Jan. 9 referendum, the result could be a "war-like" situation, it said.

"A deterioration of the North-South relationship, as well as tensions within northern and southern Sudan could lead to large-scale outflow of people to neighbouring countries," said the U.N.'s humanitarian contingency plan, which is stamped "Not for wider distribution" but was obtained by the AP.

Underscoring the precarious security situation, southern military spokesman Col. Philip Aguer said Tuesday that 20 troops were killed and 50 wounded in an attack Saturday by forces loyal to a renegade army commander in the remote and militarized state of Jonglei.

Aguer said the attack was a surprise because amnesty discussions between the south and commander George Athor are under way. The south's president offered Athor and other dissident military figures amnesty in September in an effort to promote southern unity ahead of the January vote.

The north and south ended a two-decades-plus civil war with the signing of a 2005 peace accord that also guaranteed the south the right to hold an independence referendum. Some 2 million people died in the war, which left southerners scarred and suspicious of Khartoum's Muslim Arab rulers.

In Sudan's capital Khartoum on Tuesday, the leaders of Egypt and Libya met with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir to discuss the future of Sudan after the vote.

If worst-case violence scenarios play out after January, the U.N. plan anticipates an estimated 2.8 million internally displaced people within Sudan and an additional 3.2 million people who may be affected by a breakdown in trade and social services.

The hardest hit populations would be those living along Sudan's disputed and militarized 1,300-mile (2,100-kilometre) north-south border, as well as an estimated 800,000 southerners living in and around Khartoum who would "flee or (be) forced to move to Southern Sudan as a result of violence and insecurity."

Egypt said Tuesday's Khartoum talks were designed to ensure that the referendum is held in a "climate of freedom, transparency and credibility" and that the four leaders would review outstanding issues between the north and south, such as the demarcation of the border and the future of the oil-rich border area of Abyei.

Both Libya and Egypt view Sudan as their strategic backyard and would want to see the breakup of their southern neighbour be peaceful and avoid any massive flow of refugees into their territory as a result of fighting.

While Libya sees Sudan as a vital piece of its Africa-focused foreign policy, there is much more at stake there for Egypt, the most populous Arab nation. Sudan lies astride the middle reaches of the Nile, the primary source of water for mainly desert Egypt. The White Nile, one of the river's two main tributaries, runs through Southern Sudan.

Egypt fears an independent south may come under the influence of rival Nile basin nations like Ethiopia that have been complaining Egypt uses more than its fair share of the river's water.

In preparation for potential problems, the World Food Program is positioning 76,000 metric tons of emergency food to 100 hubs throughout the south. Emergency shelter supplies, medical kits, and water and sanitation equipment have also been prepositioned.

Another challenge is the influx of southerners returning home from northern Sudan, where an estimated 1.5 million have lived since before the 2005 north-south peace agreement was signed. The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday that 55,000 southern Sudanese have returned to the south in the last few weeks.

The influx is straining aid capacity. Lise Grande, who heads the United Nations' humanitarian operations in the south, said officials are worried the pace of returnees "may inundate us."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg Police remove dumpsters from behind homeless shelter

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Geese fly in the morning light over Selkirk Ave Wednesday morning- Day 22– June 13, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google