'They were killing everyone'

Fleeing violence in the Blue Nile, refugees seek shelter and safety in camps in Sudan.

South Sudanese flags flutter in Juba. Picture: AFP

GENDRASSA - Over 105,000 refugees have fled conflict in Sudan's Blue Nile State, seeking safety in four camps in South Sudan's Upper Nile State, since last September, when government forces clashed with rebels who had previously fought alongside the newly independent South.

Between April and July, a mass influx of people used up pre-positioned food and contingency stocks after rains cut off road access to the camps; the World Food Programme responded by airlifting in food. The UN's Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that malnutrition and disease are abating, but that recent gains could be quickly undone by another large wave of refugees.

Sheikh Hamis Hamadin Isa Zaag arrived at Gendrassa refugee camp, in South Sudan's Maban County, two weeks ago. He spoke to IRIN about fleeing the violence in Blue Nile.

"The journey was very tiresome and long. I even left most of my people behind to come alone. It took me 20 days as I was helping one of my elder relatives.

"On the way [from Markana, Damazin], I saw that most of the refugees had left most of their parents and old people behind, as many were running from air bombardments or fighting.

"There was also a lot of fighting. I saw people killed in front of me. The refugees went into a village and were killed by soldiers.

"They were killing everyone, mostly with knives. Most of the men were slaughtered using knives.

"At the moment, it seems some of my family have been killed - that's the information I've received - and the others have scattered.

"There is no way for the peace to come, but I wish there was peace coming to this country.

"There is nothing to eat in Blue Nile - just roots and leaves and wild fruits.

"There is no food, and even if you try and get out to get some food, you will be found and jailed.

"There is so much insecurity. It is difficult for them to move and cross the border."