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 As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.