February 17, 2011 (YAMBIO) – Western Equatoria state is among the states in South Sudan that have registered a high number of returnees since the beginning of region’s referendum on independence.
The acting director of Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) in Western Equatoria state, James Benson, received about 48 returnees from Khartoum in Yambio County, the state capital.
Addressing the press at the way station, Benson said “the returnees were 48 in number, 13 households arrived in Yambio and one house hold dropped in Maridi and the other one dropped in Ibba County, others on their way to Tambura and Nzara counties.”
He pointed out that the returnees “will stay with their relatives thereafter they will go to their native areas where they can develop their own destiny.”
Benson revealed that of the 223,889 people who registered in Khartoum to return to Western Equatoria state only 254 returnees have so far arrived. He said efforts were underway to organize the repatriate the others to the state.
However, he stated that the biggest challenge if lack of funds to facilitate the transportation of returnees from the North to South, citing that “it is difficult to find NGOs to support, but the government is trying very hard so that all the returnees are transported to Southern Sudan”
The acting director also said that they have made an integration assessment to find the categories of the returnees “who may be capable to be integrated in the government or schools. Most people from the North only know Arabic languages”.
One of the returnees, Charles Luis, disclosed in Khartoum he did not feel like a citizen.
Luis added sometimes they were denied their status as Sudanese and perceived as internally displaced people (IDPs). He also said that they were often call pagans and other names.
Another recent returnee, Angelina Benjamin, said she had only heard of Yambio, and had not seen it because she grew up in Khartoum. But she said she is happy to be back home.
She added that she has the interest to study in English as she studied in Arabic in the North.
During Sudan’s two decades of civil war which led to deaths of two million people, many Southerners fled to the North. Now with the independence of the South already guaranteed most Southerners in the North are expected to return to the South.
The debates are still going between the SPLM who govern the South and Sudan’s ruling NCP on outstanding issues of the 2005 peace agreement that gave the South the right to secede. This issues include: citizenship, oil, water, national debts and assets, border and the contested region of Abyei.