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South Sudan: Kosti Returnees Denied Aid, Forced Out

Thousands of Southern Sudanese are stranded in Kosti, White Nile State, living in makeshift houses while awaiting barge rides home, Sept. 2011 (file photo).
Thousands of Southern Sudanese are stranded in Kosti, White Nile State, living in makeshift houses while awaiting barge rides home, Sept. 2011 (file photo).
Hannah McNeish

South Sudan is voicing concern for southerners stuck at a way station in Sudan who are being forced to leave within days.

Sudan has ordered between 12,000 and 15,000 South Sudanese to leave Kosti, a river port in White Nile state, by Saturday, after declaring a state of emergency in border areas where it has been fighting its neighbor for more than a month.

But aid agencies that have been helping people return to newly independent South Sudan say the May 5 deportation deadline is impossible due to a lack of adequate transport.

South Sudan’s government spokesman, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, said Wednesday that Sudan has asked charities to leave and stopped aid agencies from delivering vital food, health and water to the camps, even removing their supplies.

"Our concern is that these people might actually be killed, as the government of Sudan is not caring for them anymore," said Benjamin, explaining that Khartoum's demands leave the aid-dependent population stranded in serious danger. "Here they have stopped the organizations giving them food ... they are preventing them to get drinking water."

In the last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has helped almost 50,000 people resettle or return to South Sudan from the north, where about 350,000 Southerners remain.

According to IOM, a best case scenario for moving up to 15,000 people would take up to four months, require 24 passenger barges and 60 for belongings if people reduced their luggage.

The IOM fears that if people end up having to travel by bus or on foot, they will be forced to leave their possessions behind and start their new lives in the impoverished South with nothing.

More than 375,000 people have returned to South Sudan since October 2010, three months before Southerners voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum.

Despite a peaceful split from Sudan in July after five decades of intermittent civil war, the two nations have yet to agree on borders, citizenship rights, and how to share oil revenue.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was due to sign agreements with his southern counterpart Salva Kiir to protect the “four freedoms” of each other’s citizens and start border demarcation on April 3.

But clashes around oil-rich border areas started days before the scheduled meeting and have since escalated, sparking fears the two sides could return to all-out war.

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Comments
     
by: almoros
May 03, 2012 8:53 AM
Very sad and shameful news! Omer al-Bashir and team only want the southerners' resources, but not he naion! Why not to resettle those returnees temporarily in Renk town of the south Sudan that is about 150 klm south of Kosti town, and the road there between the two towns is very good! The South Sudan government has to be serious on advicing UNHCR for that option!

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