200 Young Boys Seek Refuge In Kenya
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ U.N. officials fear they are seeing the beginning of a new wave of refugees from Sudan’s civil war.
About 200 young Sudanese boys had walked into Kenya in a 24-hour period ending Friday, according to Panos Moumtzis of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The boys will join 19,000 Sudanese refugees now living at a camp in the remote northwestern Kenyan village of Kakuma who fled across the border in May to escape an upsurge in Sudan’s southern civil war.
Ten thousand of those living in Kakuma are, like the new arrivals, unaccompanied minors.
Moumtzis said some of the new arrivals were sick and or malnourished, and all tired and hungry from their approximately 150-mile trek. He said the new arrivals were the largest influx since May.
Moumtzis said the boys said they came from the southern Sudanese villages of Ame, Pallatuka and Chukadum, where there has been fighting recently between rebel factions, and that refugee officials believed several hundred more could follow.
There reportedly are several thousand boys in a camp run by the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Pallatuka, where the insurgents claim they are caring for and schooling the youths.
Critics have accused the guerrillas of giving the boys military training for eventual recruitment into rebel ranks.
Sudan’s 9-year-old civil war pits the nation’s Muslim rulers in Khartoum against Christian and animist guerrillas.
The 10,000 boys already in Kakuma are on the latest leg of a trek spurred by famine and warfare that shattered families and destroyed villages. Many of the boys fled Sudan for refugee camps in Ethiopia in the late 1980s during a severe drought. Tens of thousands reportedly died of starvation en route.
In June 1991, the camps were disbanded by new rulers in Ethiopia after they toppled that nation’s dictator and refused to support Sudan’s southern rebels who had bases in and around the camps.
The boys returned across the border into Sudan, living without parents but cared for by international aid agencies. They spent nearly a year stranded on a patch of dry land in a place called Gorkuo, marooned by seasonal rains that turn much of Sudan’s southeastern corner into a vast swamp.
Sudan’s war intensified early this year with government forces retaking more than a dozen rebel-held towns. The boys fled again, to Kenya, where the UN refugee agency and the Lutheran World Federation has been caring for them.
In August, the United Nations reported that 3,000 of the boys were missing, and reportedly had returned to Sudan with the insurgents.