South Sudanese in Ethiopia’s Panyiduk refugee camp started trekking to Gambella on Sunday as they flee hunger after donors suspended food aid.
Speaking to The City Review on Sunday, Sijin Jany, the President South Sudan Students’ Union at Jimma University, Ethiopia, said the refugees started their journey yesterday in the afternoon, with women and children arriving in Gambella ahead of men.
“Those who had money boarded buses to Gambella but the majority who had no money made it to Gambella on foot. Their journey was really terrible, they are now at the police station. I don’t even know whether they’ll be properly accommodated for days because they are going back to South Sudan,” he said.
He said men failed to move due to fear of being targeted along the road.
Jany appealed to the National Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Albino Atak, and the international community to come to the rescue of the returnees by helping them settle back home.
“I call on our government, local authorities, and the international community to respond swiftly and to compassionately alleviate their suffering and provide them with haven,” he said.
“The resilience and determination demonstrated by these returning refugees in their quest to reach their homeland must not be in vain,” he said.
Mam gatbel Nyuot, one of the refugees who trekked to Gambella, said WFP told them they should wait for food distribution for some days but they could not wait any longer.
“That is what they have been telling us. Children are starving and it is better we go back to South Sudan to work for ourselves since there is no conflict anymore in the country,” he said.
“We are only going to take a few days here (Gambella) and we will go back to our country,” he added.
Duol Kun, Nasir County Commissioner, Upper Nile State, said he assured the refugees in Gambella that the government would work on the logistics of bringing them back home.
“We are here trying our level best to make some contributions in order to bring them back home,” he stated.
He added, “Last week, I spoke to FVP H.E Riek Machar and he said the government would look into it. Some have already arrived in Akobo which is neighbouring Gambella but I don’t know how many.”
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Nyedak John, Jonglei State Information Minister, said, “the state government is working on how to bring them back to South Sudan since they have arrived in Gambella.”
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