Sudan's Blue Nile conflict forces painful return to Ethiopia

Fri Oct 14, 2011 1:58pm GMT

By Aaron Maasho

KURMUK, Ethiopia (Reuters) - Sudan's aerial bombardment of its Blue Nile state has driven thousands of people across the border into Ethiopia, a painful return for many to a refugee existence they thought was over when the Sudanese civil war ended six years ago.

When Khartoum signed the 2005 peace deal that closed one of Africa's deadliest conflicts and paved the way for South Sudan's independence in July this year, Maza Soya led her nine children out of a squalid camp in Ethiopia dreaming of a new life back home in Sudan.

Last month, however, fighting erupted in Blue Nile state between the northern Sudanese army and fighters allied to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the dominant force in the newly independent South Sudan.

"Our homes were burnt down to the ground. There were daily air raids on our town," Soya told Reuters two weeks after fleeing back to Ethiopia's frontier town of Kurmuk.

Rebel fighters and residents in Sudan's Kurmuk, a town of the same name just across the forested border, accuse the Sudanese government of waging a sustained, indiscriminate bombing campaign against civilians.

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's government denies bombarding Blue Nile, which lies just north of the new north-south border.

But Soya said her husband remained in Kurmuk in Sudan, recovering from shrapnel wounds that burst his stomach open when an Antonov aircraft at high altitude dumped its payload of bombs on their town.

"It is heartbreaking to be back," said Soya, who spent 21 years in one of several camps in Ethiopia that were home to tens of thousands of displaced Sudanese at the height of Sudan's war.   Continued...

Internally displaced people wait for help after fighting broke out in the Blue Nile state, Sudan. September 5, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
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