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IOM Helps Displaced Dinkas Return Home From South Darfur

The Sudanese government has asked the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to help some 10,000 impoverished Dinka tribes people to return from three sites in the South Darfur region to their original homes in southern Sudan. They fled fighting there two decades ago.

The International Organization for Migration says a first group of 500 displaced Dinkas is scheduled to start the long journey home on Monday. Spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy says by the time the 10,000 Dinkas get home, they will have traveled by truck, bus, train and boat.

"We are running against time at the moment," he said. "We have another four, five, six weeks of fairly dry weather. Then the rains will basically start, and it will be incredibly difficult to get those internally displaced people back to northern Bahr El Ghazal. We know from experience that with the rainy season, the roads turn into a quagmire, and everything is much more complicated."

Chauzy says, among those returning are many elderly, handicapped, young nursing mothers and children. He says they will need time to rest during the difficult journey.

He says IOM has opened some way stations where people will be provided with water, sanitation and shelter.

The Dinkas are among tens-of-thousands of tribes people who were displaced by conflict and drought in South Sudan. They fled to South Darfur, and were again displaced by the fighting that broke out there in 2003.

Chauzy explains, many displaced people, including this group of Dinkas, are eager to return home, now that Sudan's 21-year civil war has ended, but he says this particular group is very poor.

"It has not been able to save its wealth, its cattle, and it is going to be returning back to the homeland in Northern Bahr El Ghazal almost empty-handed," he added. "So, that adds another dimension to this return operation, which is basically making sure that this return is going to be sustainable. That will mean that, after the rainy season, there will be a need for a lot of assistance for those displaced people, who have returned back to their homelands, to make sure that they can sustain themselves on the land."

Chauzy says the Dinkas have been forced to sell whatever possessions they have to pay for train and truck fees to take them home. He says IOM will supplement their needs and provide emergency assistance.