Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rights Activist Fears Conflict Prior to Sudan Referendum

Banjul, The Gambia (TNBES) The Associate Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, Olivia Bueno has expressed fears that violence may erupt in Sudan in the build up to the 2011 Referendum that will
determine the secession of South Sudan from the North.

Bueno was speaking to The Voice Newspaper in an interview at the Laico (Atlantic) Hotel in Banjul. “In
fact, there has been violence in Sudan for the past years, leading  to the displacement of many citizens,” she said.

She said even the demarcation is likely to spark conflict given that the South succeeded in its cessation bid come the January 2011 Referendum, while noting that some parts of the has oil resources, but acknowledged that a structure has been put in place with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

Olivia Bueno, who is currently attending the Participation of Non-Governmental Organisations on the 47th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, noted that her Organisation is also working with the Darfur Consortium on the plight and situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Asked whether IDPs in the South will live permanently their or will have to be taken back to their original lands provided that the South secedes from the North, she replied: “It is a question we do not know at the moment, there have been policies that were formulated on the issue but are so restrictive, we are trying to see how other policies that will be flexible and favourable to the IDPs can be formulated.”

During the months leading up to the elections, she said these restrictive policies enabled the Sudanese authorities to systematically suppress fundamental human rights guaranteeing dialogue and civic engagement. “Traditionally marginalized groups at Sudan’s peripheries, civil society and the political opposition continued to be excluded and targeting of these groups occurred in direct relations to the electoral process,” she outlined.

She also noted that strong statements and threats were issued by Khartoum in the weeks leading to the elections against those who voiced disappointment over the process, including lack of progress made in remedying lessons learned from the registration process and in legal reform.

She noted that the goal of International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) is to enhance the protection of the rights of the displaced worldwide. IRRI grounds its advocacy in the rights accorded in international human rights instruments to those who are forced to flee and strives to make these guarantees effective in the
communities where the displaced and their hosts live.

“IRRI aims to contribute to the improvement and creation of models of law and practice which best guarantee the rights of the displaced. We engage in legal and field-based research in order to better understand how policy affects refugees and we bring our findings to the attention of policy makers in national, regional and
international fora,” she said.

IRRI recognizes that it is vital that the voices of displaced and host communities are heard—and heeded. IRRI works with local advocates to identify the key challenges facing those communities and collaborates with them to advance appropriate changes in law, policy and practice. IRRI acts as a bridge between these local advocates and the international community, enabling local knowledge to infuse international developments and helping local advocates integrate the implications of global policy in their work at home.

The International Refugee Rights Initiative is a 501(c) (3) non-profit, non-governmental organization based in New York,  the United States, and in Kampala, Uganda.  In the United States, IRRI has close ties with the Social Science Research Council. In Uganda, IRRI works collaboratively with the Refugee Law Project of Makerere University in Kampala.

IRRI was founded in June 2004 by Olivia Bueno, Deirdre Clancy and Dismas Nkunda, all team members of the previous International Refugee Program of Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights). IRRI builds on the expertise and partnerships built by Human Rights First in its work on
international refugee law and policy. Vol:2 Issn:180

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