South Sudan returns top 300,000
Last weekend marked the return of the 300,000th Sudanese refugee from exile since the end of the Sudan civil war and the start of UNHCR's repatriation operation in Southern Sudan in 2005.
Antazia Dulu, a 72-year-old woman who fled her homeland to neighbouring Uganda in 1991, crossed into Southern Sudan at the Nimule border post on Saturday, 7 February, to become the 300,000th returnee. Southern Sudanese and UNHCR officials were on hand at the border to welcome her and a convoy of 240 returnees. Some 43,000 Southern Sudanese have returned from Uganda since the opening of the Nimule return corridor in August 2007.
UNHCR launched a programme to help Southern Sudanese return from Kenya, Uganda, and other neighbouring countries after the Sudan government and the southern rebel movement, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), signed a peace agreement to end their 22-year civil war in January 2005.
Since the start of its operation in December 2005, UNHCR has assisted the return of over 140,000 Sudanese refugees, while tens of thousand have gone back independently. Back home, many of the returnees are busy rebuilding their lives, constructing houses and cultivating the land. UNHCR and the Southern Sudanese administration are engaged in joint efforts to provide basic facilities such as wells, health centres and schools for the returnees.
The protracted north-south conflict uprooted nearly 500,000 people, making the Southern Sudanese one of Africa's largest and longest-staying refugee populations.