Independence brings its own challenges as thousands return to South Sudan

Publié: 11 juin 2012 15:46 CET

By Hannesorine Sorensen

Less than an hour after 30 year old Mariata gave birth to a baby boy at the clinic at Kapuri transit camp 13 kilometres West of Juba, South Sudan, she has a name for him.
“Adam. Named after Adam Levine, the emergency physician who manages the clinic,” says a relieved and happy Mariata, who has just arrived at the camp from Sudan.

Adam is the first of her eight children to be born in South Sudan. She was not born here herself. More than 30 years ago, war forced her family to flee to Khartoum. And so this hot, humid and dusty place is new to her, yet this is the place where she has decided to settle.

Over 375,000 people originating from South Sudan have crossed the border from the north since November 2010.

Many decided to come back following the January 2011 referendum and the independence of the Republic of South Sudan on 9 July 2011. They wanted to be part of the new country.
The influx reached a climax after the government of Sudan announced that citizenship for southerners living in the north would expire.

Thousands of southerners, no longer welcome in Sudan, are on their way to South Sudan. But many are not able to get there. Some are stuck because of fighting and ongoing mistrust between the two countries, others are stranded due to lack of transportation.

Mariata and her children are just a few of approximately 12,000 people, who have been stranded in Kosti, Sudan, for about a year due to lack of transportation.

As a result of recent negotiations between the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the governments of South Sudan and Sudan, over 11,000 people from Kosti were recently airlifted from Sudan to South Sudan in three weeks. From there they are transported in buses to Kapuri.

Upon arrival in Kapuri, people are screened for nutritional state by volunteers from South Sudan Red Cross Society, who also help IOM by putting up tents and distributing non-food items.

“Ever since independence we have wanted to go to South Sudan. In Kosti the situation was difficult. Security was bad, children were kidnapped, and we thought that we would never reach Juba,” says Elisa Ekanga, who arrived in Kapuri with her two children.

Her husband is still in Kosti with most of their belongings. They were only allowed to bring one piece of luggage on the plane. Although Kapuri is a transit camp, she says she will stay put until her husband arrives with their things, which could take weeks or months. Once he is here she wants to go to Torit (East of Juba), from where she fled in 1987.

“Right now I feel stranded. I don’t know whether I have any relatives left in Torit. And I have no money to start a new life,” she says.

26-year-old Lillian Patrick, her four children and her husband have also been in Kosti since August last year.
“We waited for so long in Kosti. We wanted to bring our belongings. But in the end my husband got so frustrated and said: “OK, let’s leave.” We gave our belongings to our neighbours,” she says.

The only thing she knows about the future is, that she will stay in Juba. But they will have to start from scratch, as they have left almost all their belongings behind.

Also stranded is 37 year old Angelina Benjamin, a widowed mother of twins. She has spent the last year in Kosti waiting for transport to Juba. Originally from Juba, where her husband was employed as a soldier for the Sudanese Army, the family moved to Khartoum when he was transferred to the North in 1999. Later he was killed during the war in Sudan`s Western Darfur-region. Being a southerner she was denied his pension and told to leave country.

“I have no relatives here. I don’t know where to go, and I don’t know what to do,” she says.

The National Society has launched an appeal to help the returnees. An Regional Disaster Response Team from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is currently assisting the National Society on a needs assessment in the three states through which the majority of returnees have travelled overland, corridors that are now blocked.