Thursday, December 21, 2006
MBOKI, 21 Dec 2006 (IRIN)
MBOKI, 21 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - South Sudanese refugees in the Central African Republic (CAR) have begun returning home on repatriation flights following a two-year wait for the security situation back home to improve, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said.Some 10,000 southern Sudanese refugees who fled across the border in the early 1990s have been living in camps and villages around Mboki in the remote southeastern corner of CAR, waiting for an end to Sudan’s north-south war. That war ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese government and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in January 2005.Relief workers said hundreds of refugees have been picking their way across the barren plains on foot and bicycle over the last few months, spurred on by a pledge by the south Sudan authorities that former government officials who return before January would be reinstated.Refugees will be flown across the barren brush-land three times a week in groups of 150 as part of the organised repatriation, UNHCR said.The first of the 30-minute flights started on Friday to the administrative town of Tambura, but more destinations will be offered later, and operations could wrap up by the end of March 2007.Anthony Mongo, 50, a leader of the refugee community, said life had been especially difficult over the last two years, as the refugees waited nervously for news of the patchy security situation in south Sudan. "Many people stopped cultivating once they heard they would be going home in 2005. When tribal conflicts and insecurity started up again, they were forced to eat wild yams and roots," he said.Christopher Hann, head of the UNHCR in Tambura said challenges remain for the homecomers. "Tambura is a remote place so basic services are limited and the government is still rebuilding itself," he said.Joseph Kangirora, 26, who has been in CAR since he was 10, said his excitement about going back to see family members who stayed in Sudan is mixed with trepidation as he prepares to leave the only world he has known in his adult life."I have spent so long here I don’t know how it is over there now," he said. "But home is still in Sudan."