Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Capital News
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the attack on themilitary camp left "many martyrs, injuries and property damage" © Sudan's Foreign Media Council/AFP/File / Handout


Ethiopians fleeing fighting return to famine-era Sudan camps

Hamdayit, Sudan, Nov 14 – Two decades since Burhan Yussef left the Um Raquba camp where he had sought refuge from devastating famine in his homeland of Ethiopia, the 77-year-old is returning.

Yussef this week arrived in eastern Sudan, after fleeing Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region for a second time to save his life, joining long columns of thousands of others to escape intense fighting, air-strikes, rocket attacks and artillery barrages.

“Returning is not a good feeling,” Yussef said.

He trekked out of Ethiopia in plastic sandals and leaning on a stick for support, crossing the river that marks the frontier by squeezing precariously into a small boat, crammed with other exhausted and terrified Ethiopians seeking safety.

Yussef is supported by his daughter, who grew up as a refugee in Sudan in the wake of the Ethiopia’s 1984-5 famine.

Many recount similar stories of suffering.

“The war made me come back,” said Gabriel, a 40-year-old farmer who has also become a refugee again, asking to be identified by his first name because he feared for his safety.

He too grew up as a child as a refugee in Sudan, before building a new life at home in Ethiopia. Now he has been forced to flee once again.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

“I am filled with immeasurable sadness, because when I left, 20 years ago, I never thought that I would come back as a miserable refugee,” Gabriel said, standing dejectedly as he waited for a handout portion of kisra, a Sudanese pancake made from sorghum grain.

“I don’t know how long I will have to relive the terrible situation that has been mine since I was born.”

– Refugee numbers grow –

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, announced last week he had ordered military operations in Tigray, saying the move came in response to attacks on federal military camps by the regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

On Saturday, Tigrayan leaders said they had ordered rocket attacks on two airports and threatened to strike neighbouring Eritrea, raising fears that the escalating conflict could spread.

The escalation of violence has sparked deep concerns that a conflict Abiy Ahmed vowed would be quick and contained could destabilise the broader Horn of Africa region.

The United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet has warned of possible war crimes in Tigray, while aid workers fear a the region faces a major humanitarian crisis. 

Over 20,000 Ethiopians have fled as refugees into Sudan, with numbers continuing to grow, Sudanese officials say.

For Yussef, it raises the memories of harsh times he thought were long past.

Over a million people died in the 1984-85 famine in Ethiopia’s tough and mountainous north according to UN figures, caused by a drought exacerbated by a conflict between the Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam against Eritrean and Tigrayan rebels. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Yussef, wearing a white shirt and thin trousers, is back queueing for food handouts in the Hamdayit area of Sudan, awaiting transport to the newly reopened camp of Um Raquba, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the border with Ethiopia.

The camp, built in the 1980s and closed in the 2000, was reopened on Friday with space for 20,000 people.

Sudanese officials say they are doing what they can to support the sudden influx of refugees.

“We have transferred 1,115 refugees there (to Um Raquba), and we will continue to send more daily,” Sudanese refugee agency official Yaaqub Mahmud told AFP.

Yussef already knows what to expect.

“I was in my forties when I arrived in the camp. I raised my four children there,” he said. “None of my three boys wanted to come back — only my daughter accompanied me.”

His daughter, now aged 27, refuses to speak, and turns her back.

“I remember the camp perfectly,” Yussef said sadly.

“The only thing that consoles me is to think that I will find Sudanese friends who I haven’t been in touch with for many years.”

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Click to comment

More on Capital News


Khartoum, Sudan, Jan 17 – Over 80 people have been killed in two days of ongoing clashes in Sudan’s restive Darfur, doctors said Sunday,...

Capital Health

Nairobi remained the hardest hit county having recorded 62 cases followed by Meru and Kwale which registered four and three cases respectively.


Paris, France , Jan 17 – The world is falling short of promises made under the Paris climate deal to help the most vulnerable nations deal...


Kampala, Uganda, Jan 17 – Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine remains under “house arrest”, his party said on Sunday, after a disputed election returned...


Khartoum, Sudan, Jan 17 – Tribal clashes in Sudan’s restive Darfur killed at least 48 people, in the latest bout of violence to hit the...


According to a whistleblower, the procurement board relied on “a doctored report” to approve the single sourcing of the APC’s from Turkey.


Bangui, Central African Republic, Jan 17 –UN peacekeeping troops say they have retaken control of a city in the Central African Republic captured two weeks...


NAIROBI, Kenya Jan 17 – China has indicated its willingness to suspend Kenya’s debt as part of measures to help developing countries weather the...