It was an arduous journey, with hunger, illness and exposure to danger. The returnees are among thousands of South Sudanese who were stranded in the Sudanese town of Kosti.
The group traveled by barge from Sudan to South Sudan where they spent weeks in a transit camp outside Juba before traveling to Aweil in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State. Some 16,000 returnees are still in Renk, in Upper Nile State.
Most of the people were originally from Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State but they fled to Sudan during the civil war, which ended in 2005.
The returnees, mostly women and children, began to arrive in Aweil last weekend. The four-day bus trip from Juba to Aweil was organised by the International Organisation for Migration.
Returness stranded at Bentiu port During their journey, the migrants said they became caught up in fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the disputed oil producing town of Heglig, called Panthou by South Sudan.
Kenyang Kenyang Yai, one of the returnees, expressed his relief to finally arrive. These four days have been hard for us,” he said, adding that they hardly received food on their journey.
A traditional chief among the returnees, Atem Atem Akol urged the government to treat returnees in the same way as their fellow citizens, urging them to have equal opportunities.
Akol said he wants to settle in Aweil town so he can work and his children can attend school. The World Food Program (WFP) is distributing three months food rations to the returnees.