In the grand scheme of things, the number of Sudanese who will participate in the referendum from outside of the country is small – just over 60,000 out of nearly 4 million registered voters. But for people who were forced to flee during Sudan’s decades of conflict and have been living the unsettled life of refugees, the vote carries an important significance.
Enough visited Kakuma refugee camp in northeastern Kenya, the longtime home of people displaced by Sudan’s multiple conflicts, as well as by repressive governments and other wars in East and Central Africa. At the time of the visit, registration for the South Sudan referendum was just getting underway. In the end, 5,525 refugees registered to vote in the referendum out of 8,000 to 9,000 southerners in the camp. (Children largely account for the discrepancy between the registered voters and total number of southern refugees in the camp.) “I don’t know anyone who didn’t register, and everyone is going to vote,” said Andrew, 28, a Kakuma resident since 1992 who Enough interviewed by telephone after the polls opened.
In a new field dispatch, Enough’s Laura Heaton reports on the circumstances that have been bringing Sudanese to Kakuma since 1992, the conditions and challenges in the camp today, and what the referendum may mean for southerners who want to return home.
Read Laura’s field dispatch from Kakuma refugee camp.