Kenya: second time in Kakuma camp
30 August 2012

Young people socialise near the new arrivals section of Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where tents are used as accommodation for the first few weeks. (Katie Allan/JRS)
Having left once with hope and optimism, returning can be a difficult choice to make.
Kakuma, 30 August 2012 – Many South Sudanese are again being forced into displacement and returning for a second time to Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, according to JRS field staff there.

A recent report by the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) backed JRS staff observations, putting daily arrivals into Kakuma at between 100 and 150, mostly from South Sudan. It seems that a percentage of these new arrivals are in fact returned refugees who had previously left the camp.

"Areas of South Sudan are being bombed. Nobody is secure in these areas so we come back to Kakuma. There is hunger, because even if we plant our own food, there is no way we can grow it because of war", said one male refugee who lived in Kakuma from 2003–2008 before going home, only to return in May 2012.

Only one year after South Sudan gained independence, conflict in Upper Nile and Unity states over the disputed border zone between Sudan and South Sudan, and tribal clashes in parts of South Sudan, are forcing refugees over the border to Kenya. Having left the camp with the hope of at last rebuilding their lives in their home country, these refugees have to face the crushing reality of a second period of displacement back where they started.

Ethnic clashes. The reasons behind this second wave of returns are not all linked to the current military conflict at the Sudan-South Sudan border area, although this increasing insecurity plays a significant part. Many refugees are returning because continued inter-tribe conflicts in areas like Jonglei state have meant they have been unable to settle safely back home.

Judith* arrived in Kakuma in 2004 and returned to South Sudan in 2008. Now in 2012, she is back in Kakuma along with the ten members of her family.

"My place was destroyed [due to tribal conflict], there was nothing left. There was great insecurity because of the other tribes, hunger, no school. All members of my family wanted to go back to Kakuma and so we did. Here we are now", she said.

The returned refugees are often suffering from a second wave of trauma and require intensive counselling and support when they arrive back in Kakuma. Having left once with hope and optimism, returning can be a difficult choice to make.

Auralia* lived in Kakuma from 2003–2008 and then returned home to South Sudan with her husband and three children, hoping for a new start. However an opposing ethnic group attacked them and they had to flee once more. In flight, she lost her husband, who has tuberculosis and could not keep up with them.

"We were running, running, running. They killed my parents and other relatives, I will never return to South Sudan", Auralia said.

JRS has been working in Kakuma refugee camp since 1992 and provides a programme of psychosocial counselling and primary, secondary and tertiary education for refugees. Recently-arrived South Sudanese refugees were interviewed for this article during a JRS focus group session.

*Not real name

Katie Allan, Regional Communications Officer, JRS Eastern Africa

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