South Sudan Wants to Bring Nonresidents Home for Referendum


The government of Southern Sudan wants 1.5 million southerners who fled to the country’s north during the country’s long civil war to return home before a crucial referendum that could split the oil-rich south from the north.

The return of so many southern voters could help the referendum gain additional support if those southerners are not allowed to vote while living in the north. A commission is currently deadlocked on whether to allow such votes. But a southern official denied the plans to return southerners are linked to the January vote and said they are motivated by humanitarian concerns.

“We’re not politicians. We’re operating on humanitarian grounds. If they come to vote for unity, we don’t care. If they come to vote for succession, we don’t care,” said the government’s director of repatriation, Arop Mathiang Amiyock.

The government would use trains, trucks and buses to return citizens to the semiautonomous south, he said, and returning families would be directed to reception centers in towns where they would be fed and sheltered for three months.

I hope everyone who has the desire and the right to vote gets to vote. But the logistics of moving so many people sound nightmarish.

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