Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

South Sudan wants 1,5-million people to return before vote

The government of south Sudan wants 1,5-million southerners who fled to the country’s north during the country’s long civil war to return home before a crucial referendum that could split the oil-rich south from the north.

The return of so many southern voters could help the referendum gain additional support if those southerners are not allowed to vote while living in the north. A commission is currently deadlocked on whether to allow such votes. But a southern official denied the plans to return southerners are linked to the January vote and said they are motivated by humanitarian concerns.

“We’re not politicians. We’re operating on humanitarian grounds. If they come to vote for unity, we don’t care. If they come to vote for secession, we don’t care,” said the government’s director of repatriation, Arop Mathiang Amiyock.

The government would use trains, trucks and buses to return citizens to the semi-autonomous south, he said, and returning families would be directed to reception centres in towns where they would be fed and sheltered for three months.

“We are looking for resources from the government and from donors. That’s why we haven’t started the project yet,” he said.

“We are concerned about the resources we have to support the returnees. That’s why we are appealing to the international community.”

Behind schedule
Southern Sudan is scheduled to hold an independence referendum in January, a condition agreed upon in a 2005 peace accord that formally ended the more than two-decade-long civil war between the country’s north and south. Preparations for the referendum are running behind schedule, and officials have warned that little time remains to complete critical tasks.

Some southerners worry that the north is too dependent on revenues generated by southern oil to let the region become independent.

Aid organisations may be wary of a project that could be interpreted as having political overtones. A large influx of people needing aid in Southern Sudan could also tax aid agencies in a region where the humanitarian situation is already precarious.

If one of the next two harvests failed, 4,3-million vulnerable people in the south already requiring food assistance would need vastly increased support, said Lise Grande, the top humanitarian official in southern Sudan.

More than two million people were killed in the 23-year north-south civil war, and an estimated four million more were forced to flee to neighbouring countries and to northern Sudan. Much of the south’s farmland is littered with land mines.

More than two million Sudanese refugees and people displaced within Sudan have already returned to the south. But many southerners stayed in the northern capital, Khartoum, after the war ended, either by choice or because they could not afford to return. — Sapa-AP

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Johannesburg council member Jolidee Matongo touted as front-runner to take...

The ANC will likely announce a candidate to take over as the city’s mayor next week after consultation with provincial and national leaders

Covid-19 jab: a ticket of responsibility, not a ticket to...

Being fully vaccinated ‘makes you a little bit more comfortable in your skin’, says 61-year-old Elize Parker

More top stories

Johannesburg council member Jolidee Matongo touted as front-runner to take...

The ANC will likely announce a candidate to take over as the city’s mayor next week after consultation with provincial and national leaders

Clashes in Tunisia after president ousts PM amid Covid protests

Street clashes erupted Monday outside Tunisia's army-barricaded parliament, a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended the legislature, plunging the young democracy into a constitutional crisis

Five things to watch in the Zambian elections

Zambia will hold presidential elections in three weeks’ time amidst an ongoing economic crisis and rising political tensions. These are the five most important things to look out for in the elections

Covid-19 jab: a ticket of responsibility, not a ticket to...

Being fully vaccinated ‘makes you a little bit more comfortable in your skin’, says 61-year-old Elize Parker
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×