Protection and displacement in contested borderlands: The case South Kordofan refugees in Yida, South Sudan

Øystein H. Rolandsen (PRIO)

rolandsenIn June 2011, immediately before South Sudan became an independent state, civil war broke out in South Kordofan state of Sudan. Two rebel groups, SPLM/A North and JEM, are fighting a protracted war against the government in Khartoum. The war has displaced hundreds of thousands. Many have fled to South Sudan and found temporary shelter in Yida refugee camp just across the border to the state of Unity. The population of the camp was 58 000 by January 2013.  The refugee camp is placed within a complex political context. Despite the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement the population in these areas has not had access to adequate protection and has experienced a high level of insecurity. These areas are also socially and economically marginalized which raises protection issues in the more comprehensive interpretations of the concept. International humanitarian assistance to South Sudan has been scaled down in recent years and instead the international community focused its efforts on long-term peacebuilding and social and economic reconstruction (Bennett et al. 2010). The establishment of an international border between the Sudan and South Sudan and recent outbreaks of large-scale violence in Abyei, South-Kordofan and South Blue Nile exacerbate the need for protection in the borderlands, while at the same time makes it even more difficult for the civilians in the area to receive such assistance.

This case study focuses on how this context affect protection of civilians in the Yida refugee camp, but also how the refugee crisis affect developments in northern parts of Unity State. Research for the case study includes a three week research visit to the border areas between North and South. A broad range of stakeholders will be interviewed from ordinary people to government and civil society representatives as well as UN agencies and humanitarian organization engaged in protection activities in the relevant areas. Data collected during this field visit will be supplemented with other published material and by previous research conducted by Rolandsen.

This research will provide critical and informed input to the discussion of competing perceptions of protection and problematise implementation of protection activities in contested border areas. The case study contributes new perspectives to the policy debate on adequate responses to the need for protection of civilians in complex emergencies.

Bennett, Jon, Sara Pantuliano, Wendy Fenton, Anthony Vaux, Chris Barnett, and Emery Brusset. 2010. Aiding the Peace: A Multi-donor Evaluation of Support to Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Activities in Southern Sudan 2005-2010. United Kingdom: ITAD Ltd, December.