News / Africa

    As Referendum Nears, Thousands Face a Difficult Path Home to Southern Sudan

    Southern Sudanese people in the north load their belongings on the truck as they prepare to leave for the south before the secession referendum, in an area called Mandela in Khartoum January 5, 2011
    Southern Sudanese people in the north load their belongings on the truck as they prepare to leave for the south before the secession referendum, in an area called Mandela in Khartoum January 5, 2011

    Hundreds of southerners are stranded in camps near the edge of Khartoum. They’ve been stuck there for more than three weeks waiting for the Government of Southern Sudan to provide them with transport to go back home ahead of the independence referendum next week.

    Those stranded near the town of Mayo, 25 km south of Khartoum, say that they don't have money to return home on their own, and they need the government to step in.

    "Our situation is very bad, we have money problem, we need to the government of south Sudan to give money for us and to take us to travel to Wau, please we need any country to come and help us," says Joseph, a southerner trying to get back to his home in Wau.

    Tens of thousands of southerners have already returned to their ancestral homelands in anticipation of the referendum on independence, many through a government program that aims to provide free transport to 1.5 million southerners living in the north.

    Many southerners say they are leaving because of uncertainty about their citizenship rights or because of possible retaliations against them in the north after should the south decide to secede in the referendum. Some arrived back with the hope to register for the referendum, and some to come back home to a place where they feel more safe than in the North.

    “In the North, there is a lot of discrimination. Whenever a northerner comes in the night and finds you having property, he could simply deprive you of having them,” explains Santino Aleu, a recent returnee to the south. “That is why I used my own money and paid it as busfare and came home. And I caught up with people registering themselves for referendum’s votes, and I am now registered. Even though we are faced with some tough conditions like lack of food here, it is our home. There is no way we can leave our home again.”

    Northern Bahr el Gazal state in southern Sudan is one of the states that has hired buses to voluntarily bring home some of its people who were displaced to the north during the war.

    Those who have returned have been reunified with some of their family members, and most are being allocated lands. The state government, with United Nations support, has also provided food relief, clean water, shelter, and land to help meet their basic needs, but some say it is not enough.

    Amiir Akok, a returnee woman, says although she is happy being home, she still faces a lack of food, water and other needs.

    “We are glad for having arrived back, because the life in the North was not safe,” she says, adding, “We have come with little children, they are with us, they are suffering from hunger, and lack of health services.”

    It’s not the first time the state has organized to bring its former residents back home. It has been bringing people back since 2007, but many return to the north and resume working petty jobs due to Northern Bahr el Ghazal’s lack of educational and health services, and lack of employment opportunities.

    One recent returnee, Piol Bol Akok urges his fellow returnees to endure the challenges this time around and stay in the south.

    “What I also like to tell my people who came with me is that if someone misses better education, and healthcare, I am appealing to all of them to stay here and should not go back to North,” he says.

    Piol Bol Akok also appeals to the state government to fulfill its promise to bring home those who want to return.

    “What I like the state governments do is to implement what they said, that they would bring back everyone in the northern camp,” he says. “We have people who are still in camps such as in Darfur. We want the government to increase the number of buses and send them and bring back them here.

    Cezar Andrea is one of those who is stranded in the north. He wants to get back to his hometown of Wau, but says he is losing hope that the government will come to his aid.

    "We've been here for 24 days, we should be in the south long time ago,” he says. “I don't know when we will go. They are telling us every day, ‘tomorrow you will leave,’ but if you come tomorrow you will find us here.”

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora