One returnee’s story

3 Sep 2012

One returnee’s story

Joyce was among a group of 42 returnees who left a camp in Malakal on 29 May to board a flight to the Warrap State capital of Kuajok.

The journey was the latest leg of a personal odyssey that began in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum two months ago and had not yet reached Joyce's final destination in Western Bahr El-Ghazal state.

But the obstacles encountered by the 26-year-old mother of one during her journey are typical of the ordeals facing so many southerners who have left Sudan to start a new life in South Sudan.

Joyce was in her fifth month of pregnancy last March when she packed up her belongings and set out for South Sudan by road with her infant son and elderly mother.

As they approached the international border in Southern Kordofan, Joyce and her fellow passengers suddenly found themselves in the middle of fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army in the vicinity of the Heglig oilfields.

Joyce and her family escaped unhurt, but the fighting forced them to head north to the Southern Kordofan town of Kharasana where they spent one night.

Having made a decision to go back to Khartoum, Joyce and the other southerners she was travelling with again came under attack, and that convinced the returnees to enter South Sudan at a border crossing near the Upper Nile State town of Renk.

Joyce received some food and plastic sheets during her two-week stay in Renk before accepting an offer of transport to Malakal.

Joyce and her family were taken to a camp in the Upper Nile state capital set up by the South Sudanese government and the UN High Commission for Refugees where she was vaccinated against tetanus and her son received polio and measles immunizations.

On 29 May Joyce boarded a flight in Malakal that was arranged by the UN International Organization for Migration to bring returnees to Kuajok, and she left behind most of her belongings with a cousin.

She sounded a bit disappointed to discover there was no camp for returnees awaiting Joyce when she landed in the Warrap State capital.

"Nobody is expecting us and there will be no relatives or friends to welcome our small family," said Joyce, who moved to Khartoum with her family at the age of four and ran a small food stall in the Sudanese capital. "But I am still happy to be here."

Over 400 returnees have arrived in Warrap state since the beginning of May, and they have been issued ration kits designed to last them three months that consist of food, seeds, tools and basic health care items.

"The returnees are free to settle down (anywhere) in the state," said Benjamin Binda Wol of the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission in Kuajok. "Many more people from the north may be resettled (here) in the near future."