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IOM Concerned About Thousands of Dinkas Returning to South Sudan

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says it is increasingly concerned about the fate of thousands of displaced Dinka tribes people trying to return to their homes in Sudan's Bahr El Ghazal province from South Darfur. The IOM says the Dinkas are stranded on the southern banks of the river Kiir, in the locality of Kiir Galama.

Spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration Jemini Pandya says IOM, with the assistance of community leaders in Kiir Galama, have registered about 4,500 stranded internally displaced Dinkas. She describes their living conditions as desperate.

"They have got no potable water, enough food or any health care, nor do they actually have any money in order to help make the final leg of the journey back home," she said. "And the situation is about to get worse as more and more people are arriving at the location and who are also unable to move on."

Pandya says the Dinkas are part of a much larger group of tens of thousands of fellow tribes people who fled conflict and drought in South Sudan. Many have been in South Darfur for 19 years. In 2003, she says they were displaced again when conflict erupted in Darfur.

The Sudanese government and the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Movement signed a peace agreement in January 2005 ending 21 years of civil war. Since then, more and more internally displaced people have been returning to the homes they fled in South Sudan.

Pandya says this group of Dinka is part of this spontaneous return movement. She says these people are particularly eager to get out of south Darfur which is being ravaged by war.

"These Dinkas have no possessions," she added. "They already lost what they had when they were displaced 19 years ago. Whatever they had managed to accumulate since then and up until 2003, they lost again when they were displaced in that phase of the violence. Their journey to Kiir Galama, the ones who have actually made it there, has been extremely long and difficult. They have had to sell whatever possessions they have had to pay for train or truck fees and whenever they have had no money, they have just had to make the journey on foot."

Pandya says this long, tiring journey home is particularly difficult for women, children and elderly people. She says the IOM is organizing several road convoys to help some of the most vulnerable people get home. The organization also has set up a way station in South Kordofan province that is providing clean water, sanitation, shelter, hygiene and emergency health care.

Pandya says time is running out for these people to get home. She says they have to complete the journey before the onset of the rainy season in May when the roads will become increasingly impassible. If they miss this narrow window of opportunity, she says they will have to wait until next year to resume their long trek home.