News / Africa

Airlift Begins for South Sudanese Stuck in North

Ethnic South Sudanese board a plane to fly home at Sudan's Khartoum airport, May 14, 2012.
Ethnic South Sudanese board a plane to fly home at Sudan's Khartoum airport, May 14, 2012.
Hannah McNeish
JUBA - A flight carrying the first group of South Sudanese nationals from Sudan landed in the capital Juba on Monday to cheering crowds.

Travel plans for these returnees changed several times due to fluctuations in north-south political relations. Both countries appeared set on returning to all-out war in recent weeks as armies clashed along the border.

Happy They're Home
Surrounded by excited groups who were there to greet the 164 passengers arriving from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, Joseph Lual Acuil, Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, said South Sudan was very pleased to have them home.

"We are very happy and the president is also happy, that at least these citizens, the first batch has arrived safely," he said.

Between 12,000 and 15,000 South Sudanese have been stranded in Kosti refugee camp at a river port in Sudan's White Nile state. Many have been waiting to return to newly-independent South Sudan since it seceded from the north last year.

Many of the Kosti-based returnees will be bussed to Khartoum for Juba-bound flights in coming weeks.

Calling the stranded southerners a security threat, officials in Khartoum recently declared a state of emergency in White Nile and other border areas, ordering aid agencies out of the camps and giving all South Sudanese until May 5 to leave the country.

United Nations partners and the International Organization for Migration (I.O.M) responded to the demand by calling it an impossible task. Authorities in Khartoum also banned transportation by barge -- the primary means by which many South Sudanese were planning to return home -- saying that Juba was using the vessels to ferry troops to the border.

The international agencies then secured a May 20 deadline extension, but it was discarded once flights were organized.

Life in the North Wasn't Always Bad
Sisto Ceasar, a father of five, is returning to Juba after 14 years away.

“Life was not bad in the north, it’s only lately that it started getting bad," he said. "I’ve arrived home and I’m very happy. The environment looks interesting, and I’m trying to remember the years that I lived here in my youth."

Vince Houver, head of I.O.M. South Sudan, said flights will increase from two per day to eight per day in the next two weeks. The U.N. refugee agency, he added, is looking for a site to house returnees temporarily, until they can be matched up with belongings being trucked in from the North.

"People will be accommodated in transit for a number of weeks until they receive their luggage and are able to be sent to their final destination, mostly around Juba," he said.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudan President Salva Kiir were due to sign an agreement safeguarding rights of each other's citizens on April 3, but the ceremony was called off when clashes erupted along the border in the days leading up to the event.

The fighting quickly escalated into the most serious conflict between former civil war foes, and Sudan broke off African Union-led talks aimed at resolving issues of citizenship, oil revenues, borders and contested territory.

Up to half a million South Sudanese still face an uncertain future living in the north, as the U.N. and Africa Union urge the Sudans to return to negotiations and withdraw troops from border areas.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs