By David Mwagiru
KAKUMA April 21, 2006: It is dawn, and the sun is just rising, spreading its orange rays across the 13.5 km long UNHCR Kakuma Refugee camp in Turkana district, Northern Kenya. 43 Sudanese refugees- women, children and men- from the camp jump into a lorry that will take them to Kakuma airstrip not too far from the camp to catch an IOM flight into South Sudan expected to leave at 7:30 am. The 43 refugees are leaving Kakuma for Sudan through the UNHCR Voluntary repatriation programme.
"This is truly a special day for me and my family", said Peter Duol, 40, a father of two children aged 4 and 2 years. "It is a dream come true, I have always dreamt of raising my sons in their true home, Sudan."
For Peter Duol the repatriation by UNHCR on Wednesday 12 April 2006 marked a new dawn in his life. With the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in early 2005, a hope of a peaceful Sudan and his return back home had started to develop in his heart, "but I had to wait and see if it really was true for the sake of my two children and after reports from back home in Bor County that things were peaceful I registered for voluntary repatriation" Peter said.
Referring to the morning repatriation , Ms Fortunata Ngonyani the Kakuma Refugee Community Services officer said " it is a great thing since each time a group goes back to south Sudan it acts as an encouragement to the others and gives them confidence in the voluntary repatriation programme. It is our hope that information flowing from repatriated refugees back to Kakuma will encourage more refugees to return home".
At 12:30 pm at a UNHCR Departure centre in the Kakuma camp with the scorching sun overhead another group of 39 refugees prepare themselves for their return back home to South Sudan. To assist the refugees settle once in South Sudan each Sudanese who is repatriated received a repatriation kit with blankets, sleeping mats , plastic sheets, mosquito nets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, water buckets, soap and Sanitary pads for the women.
Ready to repatriate is Moses Majak, 32, who quickly jumps into the back of a Lutheran World Federation Lorry that will take him to the Kakuma Airstrip. "I came to Kakuma in 1997 because of the war in South Sudan but I can not wait to go back home", he says. Moses received his education at the Kakuma refugee camp and although he only reached class seven, he is eager to return back to his home in Bor County and rebuild his country. "I want to be part of building our nation," he says smiling. An hour later at the airstrip the IOM plane kicks a storm of dust as it takes off from the Kakuma airstrip carrying the 39 refugees who will be received by UNHCR Staff in South Sudan.
In total the 12 April 2006 voluntary repatriation exercise saw 82 refugees repatriated from Kakuma to South Sudan. The ongoing voluntary repatriation exercise is part of the planned return of some 71,976 refugees who fled southern Sudan to Kakuma during two decades of civil war that formally ended early in 2005 with the signing of a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and former rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army.
UNHCR only started its repatriation to south Sudan in December last year, with the first convoy from Kakuma camp in Northern Kenya to Bor area, in Jongley state, and to Kapoeta area, in Eastern Equatoria. Since December last year a total 283 refugees have voluntarily been repatriated from Kakuma to south Sudan with the number expected to rise by the end of the year.
So far, approximately 1,400 refugees from south Sudan have been repatriated from Kenya and the Central African Republic.
Caption: Moses Majak waves goodbye as he plans to return to south sudan.