25 November 2010 - Over 80 internally displaced persons (IDPs) flew from Khartoum to Juba International Airport today, marking the start of a government-funded repatriation programme that will bring 2,000 Southern Sudanese returnees by air to the greater Equatoria region in coming days.
The returnees were welcomed by Central Equatoria State Deputy Governor Manese Lomole, Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission Chairperson Rev. William Chun Achuil and various officials from the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS).
"Our aim is to have at least 2,000 IDPs repatriated by air, which will (occur) twice a day to Juba," said Rev. Achuil of the SSRRC.
Upon arrival, the returnees will be housed at a UNHCR way station for 24 hours before embarking on their final journey to their respective homes.
About half of the returnees will remain in Central Equatoria State. The remaining 1,000 IDPs will be split equally between Western and Eastern Equatoria states
"We are filled with great joy for your return, welcome back," said Mr. Lomole. "We are proud to receive you today with love for your safe arrival from Khartoum."
Returnee leader Chief Sebit Elias Sabun said he was happy to have come home and planned to return to Khartoum on Friday to bring back another batch of southerners wishing to leave North Sudan.
The Central Equatoria State deputy governor called on the international community to support the GoSS in its efforts to accelerate the repatriation programme, which will allow IDPs living in the country's northern states to register in time to vote in the Southern Sudan self-determination referendum scheduled for 9 January 2011.
"The GoSS (has) prepared a very conducive environment based on total freedom of expression to campaign in support of either unity or separation during this upcoming referendum," said Mr. Lomole. "Go register in large numbers and vote for your choice."