More than 100,000 refugees have returned home to Southern Sudan from neighboring countries, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. But like most returning refugees anywhere, the Southern Sudanese have been returning to homes that were destroyed from decades of war.
Last month, we told you about a trip to South Sudan by a delegation of American radio talk show personalities led by African American radio talk show host Joe Madison. They went to deliver tens of thousands of “Sacks of Hope” for returning Southern Sudanese refugees.
The delegation has returned to the United States, and in a follow up interview, Madison told VOA the delegation found conditions in South Sudan to be almost worse than they were before the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005.
“We saw a lack of peace dividend, particularly going in to the people of Southern Sudan. And here is what I mean. Since the peace agreement had been signed, there’s been very little development. Some of the worse diseases known to man have now found their way in Southern Sudan. We saw villages where there was one water well for 40,000 people. We were in a region where humanitarian aid workers had provided some medical assistance. For example, there are only three surgeons in one area where there were over 500,000 people. So the bottom line is, the conditions are almost worse than they were prior to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement being sign. I think the only difference is people just aren’t fighting. There isn’t an all-out war,” he said.
Madison said the refugees are returning to virtually nothing, and he accused the international community, particularly China of hypocrisy.
“On one hand China is drilling for all the oil that it can possibly find and yet at the same time they vote against providing protection for the returning refugees. I am proposing that if China really wants to help the people of South Sudan and Darfur, for every oil well that they drill, they should be drilling water wells, at least five water wells. It makes no sense to have one hand-pumped well for 40,000 people and you can’t find in essence fresh water,” Madison said.
Madison and his delegation of American radio talk show personalities went to South Sudan to deliver tens of thousands of “Sacks of Hope” for returning refugees. He said the refugees had nothing except the sacks of hope.
“In almost every case, it’s the only thing that the returning refugees and the Darfurees had. The Sack of Hope basically consists of mosquito nets; malaria is a major problem, plastic tops to keep the rain off of families, fishhooks because if the rainy season starts at least people can fish. Sorghum seeds so this is time for planting. Harvest will take place in the fall, pots and pans so they will be able to cook out of. Now to those of us in the West that doesn’t seem like a lot. Those sacks of hope allow a family of approximately six or eight to survive at lease for six months, and it is the only thing that they actually have,” Madison said.
He said President George Bush should not attend the opening ceremonies of the summer Olympics Games in Beijing because of China’s support for Sudan.
“The big question now is whether the president of the United States, George Bush, should attend the opening ceremonies. And my answer to that is emphatically no. No decent president of the United States, and I know that sounds harsh, would in fact attend those opening ceremonies. China has cooperated and collaborated with the Bashir government in exchange for an opportunity to buy oil. But China is in a position to put tremendous pressure on the central government of Sudan and quite honestly prevent the outbreak of war because as it stands now, all sides are preparing for war,” he said.
Madison said he and members of his delegation held extensive discussions with South Sudan President Salva Kiir who expressed his concern that the census, which is supposed to lead to a referendum on whether the south would vote for unity or secession is behind schedule. Madison said if the vote were taken today, the people of South Sudan would vote for secession.