From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
LWI 2008-043 FEATURE: A Plot to Settle Down
Thu, 17 Jul 2008 19:54:02 +0200
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*2nd & last in this two-series features on Sudan
FEATURE: A Plot to Settle Down
LWF Sudan Program Supports Returnees' Resettlement
IKOTOS, South Sudan/GENEVA, 17 July 2008 (LWI) - Four dusty
four-wheel drive trucks packed with people and their belongings
pull up at the "Freedom Square" open place in the small remote
town of Ikotos, South Sudan. In the compound opposite, a Lutheran
World Federation (LWF) Department for World Service (DWS) water
drilling team is busy setting up a fresh water supply system.
These are new arrivals of the first organized repatriation to
Ikotos at the foot of the mountains that separate South Sudan and
Uganda. There is no official reception committee but relatives
and former neighbors from years or even decades back are mixing
with curious children and teenagers.
Although some Southerners returned soon after the 2005
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the North and South,
it was 2007 and 2008 that have marked the highest numbers of
Sudanese returnees. Some organized their own travel without
assistance from refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda, and many more
came from within Sudan. Numbering hundreds of thousands, they are
all returnees, although some are labeled as refugees and others
as IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons).
Some 3-4 million Southern Sudanese were displaced during the war
started in the 1980s between the Khartoum government and armed
groups in the South seeking the region's political and economic
autonomy from the North. Exact figures are hard to get but the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported
that it had assisted the repatriation of 24,000 refugees by April
For the group of 16 newly arrived families - some 90 people - it
is the end of a five-day-long journey from a refugee camp in
Northern Uganda, and the beginning of a new life at home. "I feel
really good to be back home," says Margaret Abou, 45, accompanied
by her husband and six children. "I have seen others going back,
and now we are finally here. I left 25 years ago," she remarks.
She met her husband Mario Jamo Abou in the refugee camp in
Uganda and they married there. They now have five children and a
grandchild as they return to Ikotos.
"We want to believe there is real peace now," says Margaret,
anxiously scanning the dusty field for relatives or anyone she
might recognize. The couple's immediate plan is to find a plot
and settle down, hopefully near a school.
Most of the returnee families are assisted by locals, but the
Abous are still unsure where to spend the first night. Although
the expected contact person has not turned up, eventually things
work out and someone offers accommodation and something to eat
for the night. It is definitely going to be many more nights
before the local government commission can allocate them plots to
build houses. Their old land is gone, taken over by others during
the two-decade-long civil war.
The UN provides basic food items for the initial period, while
the LWF South Sudan program distributes non-food items like
blankets, mosquito nets, laundry soap, jerry cans and hoes.
At the outskirts of Ikotos, John Lokanyum, 21, is busy
constructing the traditional "tukul" house for himself, his
brother and sister-in-law. He left in 1999 and returned on his
own voluntarily in January 2008 from Kyradongo camp in Uganda.
"I was eager to get back and did not want to wait for the
organized repatriation. I longed to see my mother after such a
long time," says Lokanyum with a smile. "She was displaced around
here in the mountains but is back here in Ikotos. She has a new
family and I now have three new sisters and brothers," he
summarizes the changes over the years.
The only assistance Lokanyum has received since he came back is
a piece of land. He and a cousin Dominique, also a returnee, have
been helping each other with the "tukul" construction, but they
say they require some tools and farming implements as the rains
Godfrey Anyanzo, LWF/DWS Sudan relief coordinator at Ikotos has
good news for John:
Up to 4,000 families in the locality will receive seeds and
tools through support from Australian Lutheran World Service
(ALWS). Dominique and the families who returned from Uganda will
be among the ALWS-assisted returnees.
>Pressure on Basic Services
Summing up the challenge of working in South Sudan, LWF
representative Dr Messeret Lejebo underlines the need for good
and improved coordination with the Government of South Sudan, the
UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, churches and the
civil society in Sudan. "It is hardly a matter of
re-construction, as the table in South Sudan is virtually empty
after several decades of war," he notes.
He especially points to the increasing pressure on scarce basic
services within the host communities, with the daily arrival of
hundreds, sometimes thousands of returnees. "We have witnessed
communities expressing concern about current tensions and the
potential for conflict arising over the lack of basic social
services such as schools for returning children, water, basic
health facilities, and non-food items such as farm tools,
mosquito nets and jerry cans," he adds.
LWF/DWS assisted part of South Sudan from the mid-1970s to
mid-1980s out of the program office in Malakal. Following decades
of humanitarian aid, as well as refugee work in neighboring Kenya
and Uganda, a Sudan program was re-started in November 2007. The
current program is based in Torit, the regional capital of
Eastern Equatoria. (902 words)
More about LWF/DWS Sudan at: http://www.lwfkenyasudan.org
A contribution by Tore Samuelsson, DWS program officer for
>* * *
(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF
currently has 141 member churches in 79 countries all over the
world, with a total membership of over 68.3 million. The LWF acts
on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such
as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian
assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects
of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in
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