August 22, 2012 (BOR) - A ship carrying over 2,000 South Sudanese returnees arrived in Bor, the Jonglei state capital on Wednesday from Renk in Upper Nile state, after months of difficulties at the new international border with Sudan.
Some of the returnees are said to have died on board due to a lack of medical services. Sudan Tribune spoke to Abraham Maker, one of the chiefs on the ship, who described their conditions.
He said the ship was over-loaded with luggage, leaving insufficient space for the passengers, some of whom went the “whole night without sleeping”. This also led to passengers falling over-board, who were subsequently rescued, according to Maker.
The corpses of two passengers who died on-board were carried on the ship for two days before an appropriate burial ground was found, said Maker.
For members of the Dinka ethnic group a traditional burial involves the shaving of the deceased’s head and pointing it eastwards in dry ground.
The unavailability of dry land led to the corpses being carried on the boat, in a state of decomposition.
Before their burial in Jonglei’s Fangak county on Monday, the chiefs on the ship vetoed suggestions that the bodies be thrown overboard.
Maker called upon NGOs and the government to provide emergency craft for the repatriation process as “we shouldn’t have lost our dear ones”.
Since South Sudan seceded in July 2011 its citizens residing in Sudan have been returning. Sudanese authorities have said they will not recognise people of South Sudanese descent as citizens of Sudan. However there have been delays in the process.
Another chief on-board, James Marial, said thousands of people still stranded at the border waiting for an a ship to take them home, provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with South Sudan government sponsorship.
Describing the difficulties before reaching the ship, one passenger claimed they struggled to bring their grandchild with them, as local Sudanese authorities in Rebek thought that his light complexion meant he was of Arab descent and therefore not South Sudanese.
Sudan Tribune saw many of the children upon disembarkation from the boat emaciated after their ordeal.
Another ship carrying thousands of people is expected to arrive in Bor in a few days according to the new arrivals. The two ships will its journey to Juba on 24 August.