55 000 South Sudanese return ahead of referendum

Some 55 000 displaced Southern Sudanese have returned to their homeland from the north in the last few weeks, ahead of a key referendum on South Sudan’s independence, the UN refugee agency said today.

“With the Sudan referendum just weeks away, thousands of southerners living in the north are heading back to southern Sudan,” said Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Their movement by road, rail, barge and plane is both organised by the South Sudan government and spontaneous.

“In the last few weeks, nearly 55 000 southern Sudanese have returned to the southern states, mainly to Unity State,” added the spokesperson.

Southerners are due to vote in a referendum on January 9 on whether to remain united with the north or break away and form their own country.

The vote is a key plank of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south that put an end to more than two decades of civil war.?

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