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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid