Sudan: Mine Risk Education Resumed in Kosti in White Nile State

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.

Kosti, Town Where Returnees Stop by

A fully-loaded ferry leaving for South Sudan

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.

Most people do not even know the colors or shapes of mines and UXOs, which we show in the posters.

We distribute brochures with graphic images of mines and UXOs so the participants can carry them around and remember the images later on (At left is AAR JAPAN Sudan office staff, Shigeki NAMBA)

“Thank You for Informing Me of Mines”

Ms. Margaret is on her way to South Sudan with her children.

Margaret participated in AAR JAPAN’s mine risk education with her children and said to us, “I was born in Khartoum. Because South Sudan became independent, I am going there even though I have never been to South Sudan before. I’ve only heard of mines and unexploded ordnances, so I’ve never seen them or knew what they looked like. Through mine risk education provided by AAR JAPAN, I was able to obtain accurate information. Especially for my young children, I thought this kind of education was very important so they stay away from mine and UXOs. Thank you for giving us such an opportunity.”

For those returnees who are unfamiliar with life in South Sudan, many future challenges are anticipated. AAR JAPAN wants to protect such brave people who are trying to pave their own paths in the face of adversity. With this resolve in heart, all AAR JAPAN staff members are continuing the activities.

AAR JAPAN Sudan Office staff members: “We want to protect people from mine/UXO-related accidents.” Hiroshi SETO, far left in front row. Shigeki NAMBA, second from the left in back row.

Current Situation in Kadugli in South Kordofan

In Kadugli, where AAR JAPAN had to temporarily suspend its activities due to a battle between the Sudanese army and rebel groups that broke out in June, 2011, violence still continues even in December. Battles in South Kordofan have spread to Blue Nile State, located on the border of South and North Sudan, and are causing many to flee their homes and end up as refugees or internally displaced people (IDP).

In addition, new mine burial points have been spotted in South Kordofan, and approximately 50 accidents caused by mine/UXO have been reported after the conflicts broke out in June. Owing to the deteriorated security condition, the Sudanese government is limiting the activities of international NGOs. We will observe the security situations with utmost caution and continue our activities in order to contribute to the recovery of Sudan.

Hiroshi SETO
Has been working in AAR JAPAN Sudan Office since March, 2011. Worked for a manufacturer before joining the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers in Paraguay. Then joined AAR JAPAN. Likes to play soccer. (Born in Hyogo Prefecture.)