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Sudan: The trek home to vote

By Emma Wigley of Christian Aid, Special to CNN
  • Sudan faces crucial vote on January 9 that could ultimately see the nation split in two
  • The autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) is providing transport from the north for people to return home
  • Many have left their land, home and businesses they have built up over decades

Editor's note: Christian Aid is a UK development agency that been in operation for more than 60 years, working in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries.

London (CNN) -- After a 55 year struggle, Africa's largest country, Sudan, is just days away from a referendum that may see the mainly Christian and traditional animist people in the south split from the majority Muslim north and become a new nation.

With 3.4 million people registered to vote in the referendum that begins on January 9, much of the country is already in transit.

Southerners who have been living in Khartoum and the north return to their ancestral homes in the south - where they are expected to build a new life if the south separates.

Many have left their land, home and businesses they have built up over decades.

A long history of war
Sudan vote looms Sunday
  • Sudan
  • Southern Sudan
  • Africa

Photo-journalist Mike Goldwater recently traveled with development agency Christian Aid to Juba, the regional capital of southern Sudan, to document the mass-influx of returning southerners.

Here, the autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) is providing planes and buses from the north to Juba.

On arrival returnees are housed overnight in temporary shelters (schools and churches) and given food and blankets, before they are allocated a space on a coach to take them home.

Others make the journey by boat -- camping out under mango trees at Juba Port.

For many the journey home has taken weeks.

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