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A year after freedom, South Sudanese languish up north

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All sides recognize that it is solely the responsibility of the two governments – especially South Sudan – to find a solution. But it has been clear for months that an official solution is unaffordable. 

"What money does the government of South Sudan have? And what money does Sudan have? And if they have it, would they spend it on [people from South Sudan]?'" asks Cutts. "Even if it's a lot of money, maybe $30 million, compared to the $1.5 billion in humanitarian aid spent in a year on Sudan, north and south, it's not too much."

Blankets for roofs

In the encampments, where south Sudanese are now officially dubbed "stranded returnees," the months-long wait has added just one more strategic disappointment to lives defined by conflict,  displacement and chronic uncertainty.

Children run about – one playfully taking aim at a visitor with a toy plastic gun – unable to go to school because Khartoum authorities always expected their imminent departure. Earthen ground has been swept immaculately at the refugee-style huts. Yet when it rains, water pours off the tarpaulins and through blanket "roofs," making deep muddy puddles.

"Everything is ready. If there is transport today, they will go – they will not live here one day more," says Santino Dena Mawien, a South Sudan administrative officer from Wau, as he visits this encampment. He points out the lack of any water, toilets, and baths.

"What about food? You forget?" asks Issa, the displaced mother, after overhearing the official.

"God will give it," replies Mr. Mawien, only half in jest.

"God's mercy!" answers Issa, disappointed. "They use this language to talk to us...."

Speaking later to a group of the stranded – with mothers cradling children, and most men away hunting for work or money – Mawien tries to reassure.

"If you go [back to South Sudan], there is no problem, you will go to your home, you will find your father there, your mother there, and families," says Mawien.

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