Cheers dance song greet Sudanese refugees returning home under UN project

“We have come to welcome our brothers and sisters home,” said one resident as the trucks pulled into the Kangai way station, where the returnees spent the night before travelling on to their home villages today. “We need the refugees to come home so we can develop our land and our place.”The first convoy carried only 29 families totalling 114 people, a tiny fraction of the 170,000 Sudanese who fled to Uganda during the long civil war that ended in January 2005 with the signing of a peace agreement between the Government and the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).But the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) plans to send three convoys per week from Uganda to South Sudan, mainly to villages in the Kajo Keji area, and more than 12,000 Sudanese have registered for voluntary repatriation. By the end of May, UNHCR hopes to have facilitated the repatriation of more than 3,000 of them.Overall 350,000 Sudanese fled to neighbouring countries and 4 million more were internally uprooted by the war. Since UNHCR started repatriation operations in December, 4,000 refugees have returned from to South Sudan from Kenya, the Central African Republic (CAR) and Ethiopia.“I am happy to be back in Sudan because there is finally peace and I want to come back to contribute,” returnee Charles Londong said. The group brought many of their belongings with them from Uganda, including chickens, goats, stacks of household goods and luggage.Before returning to their home villages, they received a three-month food parcel from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), along with a UNHCR reintegration package. This included hoes, an assortment of seeds, and various household items including kitchen sets, blankets, plastic sheets, soap, mosquito nets, sleeping mats and jerry cans.The returnees also received mine-awareness training and information on HIV/AIDS prevention.