Southern Sudan Refugees returning home
By Paul Ndiho
June 28, 2010
This month (June), the World observed World Refugee Day. In Sudan, this day could not have come at a better time. Tens of thousands are returning home after more than two decades in refugee camps.
Southern Sudan’s returning refugees are a success story for a country coming out of decades of civil war. According to the United Nations, over 450-thousand people fled south Sudan during Africa’s longest civil war there. In 2005, the North and South peace deal paved the way for the 100-thousand refugees that have returned to Southern Sudan. Frantz Celestin, with the International Organization for Migration, says IOM is helping to resettle returnees.
“IOM has assisted about 100,000 IDPs to go back to the various places of origins within S Sudan, and we’ve always worked with the UNCR to resettle about 40,000 refugees, and these refugees were outside of Sudan and the surrounding areas, such as Ethiopia, in Kenya and Cairo in Egypt and various areas.”
Refugees coming home face the challenge of reintegration. Christine Lindio is a young mother of two, who was living as a refugee in Uganda. Lindio and her family returned to southern Sudan at the beginning of 2009. She now owns a plot of land, and is pleased to be farming in her homeland.
“I am back home now, I have land and I can cultivate it the way I want, because the land belongs to me.”
Tailor Joseph Juma has set up business under a thorn tree on the road from Uganda, where he also lived as a refugee. He says he was helped by the UNHCR’s livelihood project, which taught him tailoring. Now he can support his family and pass on his skills to others.
“Proud of being at home and my future is OK this time, because as everyone knows that Sudan has been recently electing a leader, we have been for elections. So if the election which means there is something good coming, so as there is something good coming so we expect good governance and my future with good governance will be OK. I will never be a refugee again my life and my family life in future will be so fine.”
Noriko Yoshida, with UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency in South Sudan, says that UNHCR has projects aimed at helping refugees to prosper.
“It is very important for UNHCR to insure the sustainability of the returnees, to achieve this it is very, very important to have the participation of returnees. In this context, UNHCR is implementing different projects in high return areas such as livelihood and training programs.”
Celestin says that his group is also working to reverse Africa’s brain drain, to help people in the Diaspora, and especially women, play a role in Africa’s development.
“Women play a very important role in the development in any community, and IOM realized the importance of including everybody in our programming and various programs that we have we make sure that women play an important part of it.”
Community-based reintegration projects such as schools and health clinics are providing basic services and livelihood opportunities in areas of high return in Sudan. With the elections now behind them, people in Sudan can focus on next year’s referendum on independence for the south.