Association for Aid and Relief, Japan (AAR JAPAN) has been providing mine risk education in Kadugli District, South Kordofan in Sudan since 2007. This past June, however, a violent gunfight broke out between the Sudanese government army and rebel groups. During that crisis, AAR JAPAN’s office was looted, and we were forced to suspend our activities. Fortunately, however, all AAR JAPAN’s staff members were in the end safe and unharmed. Even after the independence of South Sudan on July 9th, armed conflict did not cease, making it difficult for us to continue our activities. As such, we moved our operations from Kadugli to Kosti in White Nile State, 400 kilometers northeast of Kadugli and 300 kilometers south of the capital city of Khartoum.
After the independence of South Sudan on July 9th, 2011, refugees from South Sudan who fled the civil war began to return to their southern homeland. Kosti is a place where these returnees make a brief stop before going back. It has a port for ferries that travel the Nile from north to south. One interesting fact is that not all returnees were born in South Sudan. In fact, most South Sudanese children were born in Sudan to South Sudanese parents who came to Sudan fleeing the war. For those children, this journey to South Sudan is their first time to set foot on the soil of their homeland. The families head back to South Sudan looking for their relatives for support.
As a consequence of a long civil war that lasted over 20 years, there are still numerous mines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) buried in various locations. In addition, after the independence in July, new conflicts have broken out among guerilla groups in many places.
Since August, 2011, AAR JAPAN has been providing mine risk education in Kosti for the returnees, whose number has reached a total of 5,728 by December 20th, 2011. To those going to their homeland for the first time, AAR JAPAN is distributing brochures and notebooks that we had prepared in the past, filled with information on how to avoid mines and UXOs.