Returning Sudan refugees mean peace still a pipe dream

The Republic of South Sudan became independent on July last year. The din of drums, lilting roars of a new National Anthem, the dust of thousands of dancing, stamping feet and hurried speeches by equally harried state officials marked the birth of Africa’s youngest nation-state.

Hope of a life at ‘home’, plots, plans and blueprints of a thriving, oil-powered economic juggernaut were imagined and entertained. But alas, the drums of jubilation are beating to a different beat. These are the all-too-familiar drums of war.

Two well acquainted adversaries in Juba’s South Sudan and Khartoum’s Sudan have seen their armies strafe and gun down opposing soldiers, scared off Chinese oil workers and — as though they are locked in an unending nightmare — civilian populations are making the long, long trek back to dusty, overpopulated, overwhelmed Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

Steeped in morass poverty, want and only the kindness of international donors and a welcoming Kenya, we doubt many of these returnees are glad to see the tented camps of Kakuma. Wilderness or not, this remains the last place they experienced a semblance of peace!

It is a harsh indictment against Presidents Salva Kiir Mayardit and Omer Al-Bashir, ageing generals who have failed to ensure a cloud of peace in South Sudan’s Jonglei State and Sudan’s South Kordofan.

Guns will never be the be all-end all solution to territorial disputes, political power, scarce resources or even oil revenues.

Their legitimacy flies in the face of scenes of emaciated, displaced, disappointed citizens who have not known the colour of peace for close to four decades.

fresh fighting

Even as Kenya struggles under the yoke of a refugee burden from as far afield as Cameroon, neighbouring Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Congo, the recent exodus back to Sudan was a ray of hope that Turkana could soon be refugee-free.

Indeed, the Internal Security Ministry had suggested that Somali escapees relocate to "safe zones" liberated by Kenyan, Amisom and TFG forces from Al Shabaab. The return of Sudanese fleeing fresh fighting does not bode well.

The region must find a way to insure peaceful co-existence for all East Africans. Peace must no longer be merely a short interlude between wars.