Nobel Peace Prize laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Martti Ahtisaari, a former Finnish president, visited Sudanese refugees this weekend in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state along with Mary Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The three visited Yusuf Batil Camp on Sunday as members of The Elders, an independent grouping of 12 respected public figures dedicated to promoting peace and human rights and to finding solutions for other global problems. The organization was set up in 2007 by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, musician Peter Gabriel and former South African President Nelson Mandela.
The day before South Sudan’s one-year independence anniversary, the refugees told the visitors about their flight from villages in Sudan’s Blue Nile state to escape fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North and the challenges and difficulties they now face.
“Even with the care they are receiving through UNHCR and other humanitarian actors, it is unacceptable that people who had their own lives, rearing livestock and living with dignity, can be made to live in this fashion," a moved Archbishop Tutu said at the camp, which houses 31,000 refugees.
Tutu, Ahtisaari and Robinson arrived in the South Sudan capital, Juba, on Friday and have met with President Salver Kiir to discuss talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia between Sudan and South Sudan. “It is crucial for the prosperity of both countries to realize that their futures are intertwined,” said Tutu, adding: “Dialogue is the only way to resolve their differences.”
The hostilities in Blue Nile and South Kordofan state have in less than a year forced more than 170,000 Sudanese to flee to South Sudan. About 112,000 have gone to Upper Nile State and 62,000 to Unity state, with many of them arriving exhausted, dehydrated and malnourished.