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No South Sudan Passports for Fulani, Officials Say

Officials in Northern Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan refuse to issue passports to members of the Fulani tribe, insisting that they are not bona fide citizens of the new country. (K.Zeitvogel/VOA)

Officials in Northern Bahr el Ghazal state in South Sudan are refusing to issue national ID cards to members of the Fulani tribe, insisting that they are not eligible -- because they're not South Sudanese.

Manot Mareng, the director for Migration, IDs and Passports in the state capital, Aweil, said that only people who have lived without interruption in what is now South Sudan since 1956 are eligible for ID documents. In the case of the Fulanis, that has not always been the case, he said.

"Some left the south and they went north, and they only recently came here. The law can’t allow them to get a nationality ID because [their stay] was interrupted,” he said.

The Fulani, who are also known as the Falata, argue that they have lived in the area since 1917 and deserve national IDs and passports.

Many South Sudanese say the Fulani migrated from West Africa several decades ago, and members of the 3,000-strong tribe say their ancestors migrated to what is now South Sudan nearly a century ago.

“Our fathers and grandfathers were here since 1917. Our fathers and grandfathers and ourselves haven't left this place since our arrival. We were born here and we lived here and this also applies to our fathers,” Fulani community leader Muhammed Adam Issa said.

But in spite of their insistence that they are South Sudanese, Issa said only five Fulani have been given national IDs or passports so far.

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