About 86 displaced civilians in Juba, South Sudan returned home after living in a United Nations camp for the last five years where they found sanctuary from civil war.
With security slowly improving in parts of the country, and the signing of a new peace agreement in September between warring leaders, many families now want to go back to their communities with the hope of rebuilding.
The 86 returning civilians represent a few out of the millions of refugees and displaced families who will be resettled.
I wanted to come back here last year but couldn't make it, now I thank God that I'm here in Yuai with my children. I believe that my suffering is finally over
They began their long journey just after dawn, waving goodbye to their friends, and travelling to the U.N.‘s air terminal in Juba to catch a flight home.
Five helicopters headed out ferrying the passengers – mostly women and children – to Yuai, in the country’s Jonglei region.
On arrival, they were welcomed by friends and family who they had not seen for years.
“I wanted to come back here last year but couldn’t make it, now I thank God that I’m here in Yuai with my children. I believe that my suffering is finally over,” said an unidentified returnee.
South Sudan plunged into conflict in 2013 after President Salva Kiir, fired his former deputy, Riek Machar, from the vice presidency.
Clashes between troops loyal to Kiir and Machar deteriorated into a military confrontation.
The deal called on the two main rival factions to assemble, screen and train their respective forces and unify them into a national army before the formation of a unity government in May.
None of these steps occurred, before the deadline, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group has said in a report.
Over 3,000 people who had sought sanctuary in UN protection sites during the conflict have expressed the desire to return home according to the U.N.
The logistical exercise is being coordinated by the U.N. Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and other agencies.
‘’ it’s like you’re locked in somehow. But when they go back home, they are now free to do other things like cultivation, farming, fishing, business, even some people can go back to school, so we are trying to facilitate them to move on with their lives,” said Kevin Mutua Mutune, a relief, reintegration and protection officer with UNMISS.
The 86 returning civilians represent a few of the millions of refugees and displaced families who are beginning their journey home as peace spreads across the country and the brighter and more prosperous future they’ve been dreaming of finally becomes a reality.
About 400,000 people have been killed, and more than a third of the country’s 12 million people uprooted by the five-year civil war – a conflict punctuated by multiple rounds of mediation followed by renewed bloodshed.