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Returnees arrive to mark southern independence

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5 July 2011 - Thousands of returnees continued to arrive on barges at Juba Way Station today from the north to take part in independence celebrations scheduled for 9 July.

Cecilia John, who arrived on 26 June, said she was very happy to be among friends and relatives to celebrate the “special day for southerners”.

“The independence day is a special day that we have been waiting for,” said Ms. John. “This marks the end to the discrimination and marginalization we southerners suffered for many years.”

Ms. John and her four children are currently residing in temporary accommodation at the Way Station as they wait to go to their final destination in Torit, Eastern Equatoria State. The temporary accommodation was fine, she said, with access to food, clean water, sanitation and shelter.

Originally from Port Sudan in the north, Ms. John said she was unclear about her future and her children’s once she arrived in Torit. “I want to send my children to school but I do not have money and I do not have education to get a job.”

“I would like to run a small restaurant in Torit if I get initial capital,” Ms. John added. “I wish the government or other organizations could help me with a little amount to start work and help my children.”

James Attilio, who has been at Juba Way Station for a month, said he was eagerly awaiting independence. “I will celebrate the independence day with brothers and sisters,” said the 43-year-old, who spent over two decades in Khartoum working as a teacher.

But Mr. Attilio expressed concern about getting a job to support his wife and daughter. “I am ready to work any type of job and settle my family, but I do not know whether I can get one or not.”

Despite prevailing insecurity in the contested Abyei area and northern Southern Kordofan State, over 5,500 returnees arrived at different locations of Southern Sudan during the last week of June 2011, either through government-sponsored barges or spontaneously, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Over 309,000 returnees have arrived in Southern Sudan since October 2010.