IDMC (2011). Southern Sudan IDP return to face slow land allocation
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Of the approximately four million people internally displaced by the civil war, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has estimated that from the 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) until the end of 2009, over two million returned to Southern Sudan and to the region of Southern Kordofan, including the Abyei area. The region which received the largest number of returnees was Northern Bahr el Ghazal, with an estimated 450,000 returnees, followed by Southern Kordofan with 275,000.
In August 2010, ahead of a referendum on independence, the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) announced an initiative aimed at facilitating the rapid return to the south of up to 1.5 million Southern Sudanese living in the north and Egypt. Later in 2010, the GoSS revised the plan following concerns expressed by the international community and a lack of funding. Its Accelerated Returns and Reintegration Initiative (ARERI), which began on 30 October 2010, anticipated a longer period for return, and the return of about half a million people before the referendum.
However, the return of Southern Sudanese people to the south has been slower than the GoSS anticipated, with smaller numbers returning before the referendum. The current inter-agency planning figure for returns to Southern Sudan by the end of 2011 stands at 700,000, including around 300,000 IDPs who returned from the start of the ARERI operation in late 2010 to May 2010. Of this latter group, 77,000 returned to Unity State,
almost 58,000 to Northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, more than 46,000 to Upper Nile, and over 30,000 to each of Warrap and Central Equatoria States.1
Some humanitarian agencies have highlighted that in Khartoum comprehensive information was not systematically made available to IDPs about organised or spontaneous returns. By the end of 2010, only 120,000 Southern Sudanese had returned from Khartoum to the South. IOM’s tracking and monitoring system identified around 80 per cent of all returnees, but some who had returned sponstaneously told IDMC in Aweil that it can take up to a month to get registered and receive any kind of assistance. Many of them have ended up squatting under trees with all their property exposed to the sun, wind and the coming rains.
Humanitarian agencies have warned from the start of the return process that returnees’ achievement of durable solutions would be difficult in a region ravaged by war, still plagued by insecurity and offering limited access to water, health care, education and livelihood opportunities. Many internally displaced people (IDPs), after up to three decades in Khartoum, have not returned to their villages as envisaged by the GoSS, but have headed for towns and the transit sites around them. In Northern Bahr el Ghazal, over 16,000 returnees were stranded in transit sites in April 2011, and some had been there for months.
Some have stayed in the transit sites because there is no transport to their final destination, because of delays in the allocation of plots on which they can settle permanently, or because there are no services or livelihood opportunities in their place of origin. Others have stayed in these sites because they hope to be allocated land there. Neither the GoSS nor state governments have formulated or publicised a clear policy on
who is entitled to land where, forcing people to try to keep their options open. The GoSS has provided little or no information to IDPs on what they can expect upon returning. Several returnees told IDMC that no information was made available to them before they decided to return to their homes in the south. They emphasised that they were invited to return by their governments and so expected to be either be able to return to their land or given alternative land on which to settle. They also said that they expected that some services would be in place and that they would be able to use their skills to survive in the south.