Tension in Leitchur Refugee Camp, Western Ethiopia
April 25, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — A high tension occurred this afternoon in Leitchur Refugee Camp, where thousands of South Sudanese refugees have been stationed for the last one year.
According to eye witnesses in Gambella, hundreds of disgruntled local youth matched the streets this afternoon carrying guns and other light weapons.
The locals explained that the youth were protesting a proposal that the refugees’ camp should be relocated from Leitchur to Bonga, a town within Gambella that was previously used by the then Sudanese rebels, SPLM/SPLA, for their military training against the Sudanese regimes.
According to one of the locals, Thangkuach, who works for the United Nations but currently in Gambella, the youth have been made to believe that relocation of South Sudanese refugees will negatively impact employment and other opportunities that the locals are currently reaping from the new relationship.
“The problem is very complicated, the Nuer here don’t want the refugees to be relocated to Bonga because they cites the benefits of refugee camp being here” Thangkuach said.
While Leitchur is dominated by the Nuer-Ethiopians, Bonga is mostly inhabited by the Anyuak ethnic group of Ethiopia.
The Nuer-Ethiopians and other observers believe that relocation of refugees, who are mostly Nuer of South Sudan, will relocate jobs to Anyuak, one of the most hit political debates here in the region.
The proposal, which is backed majorly by the Western Gambella State Government, argues that Leitchur gets flooded during the rainy seasons, and therefore it is not safe for the refugees as witnessed during the previous rainy season.
“So, to prevent the disaster of last year repeating where scores number of children died, some officials in the state government advocate for the relocation of the current site to Bonga.” one of the observers, Peter Kim, explains.
While some politicians argue that relocating the refugees, who are mostly Nuer speakers, to Bonga could increase insecurity, others believe that such decision will increase job opportunities for the Anyuak population in Bonga county.
This debate, according to Ethiopians here in Gambella, has been rocking the political theaters for a while now as another rainy season approaches.
This debate, according to the local youth, must be ended. Instead the disgruntled youth urges their local government to work collectively with the United Nations to put enough measures in place to prevent another flooding these coming rainy seasons.
The Nuer-Ethiopians, who now opt to be identified collectively as South Sudanese, are threatening the Gambella government, led by a Nuer-Ethiopian, Hon Gatluak Tut, that they are ready to fight anyone who pushes for relocation of the refugees’ camps.
“so relocating the camp here to Anyauk zone sees some of these people lose their jobs and new opportunities being taken by Anyauk. And now they are threatening to fight anybody who attempt to move these people to any locations out of their territory”. A disgruntled protestor, Dowai Peter, explains to Nyamilepedia correspondent on site.
“In the past Anyuak have been mistreating refugees especially in Dimma and Pinyodo.” he continued.
The governor of Gambella, Hon. Gatluak Tut, was in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, attending a government meeting that addresses an upcoming election in May.
Gambella, which is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Ethiopian-South Sudan border, is inhabited by the Nuer, Anyuak, Majenger, Opou and Komo ethnic groups, all speaking Amharic as the national language with Nuer language being the second widely spoken in the city of Gambella.