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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 August 2005, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Sudan trek diary VIII: Sombre
Bill Lorenz

Bill Lorenz of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is keeping a diary for the BBC News website as he helps thousands of Sudanese trek home to Raga in the south-west, following a deal to end a 21-year war.

He is transporting the most vulnerable on trucks through forests and swamps in a race against time, as the heavy rains are due.

Saturday 30 July

My IOM colleagues Aden, Abbas and Andrew have taken two of our medical emergencies, Akello and Shefron, to the last transit camp, about 20km from our final destination. The cutting teams are already there.

The mood is sombre. John Garang was like a shepherd
Both Akello, who lost her baby in an emergency caesarean, and Shefron, the boy with a ruptured appendix, are doing fine but they need medical follow up at a hospital. Aden, the IOM doctor, will have them taken to the hospital at Wau as soon as possible.

About 2,500 people are already at this transit camp and most of the rest of the group en route there.

It really is the final push home. But I am much further back at the camp at Rede with about 300 people.

It has finally been decided that the whole group will not go to Deim Zubeir, but to a holding camp at Bile, about 10km west of the garrison town. The United Nations, the ICRC and others, are already there.

Their representatives are working with Commissioner Resiki, who has gone ahead with some of his team, to prepare plots for the 5,000 people heading there.

Mr Resiki tells me by phone that things are going well. But the garrison commander at Deim Zubeir is a bit concerned that people from the town want to leave and join the group at Bile.

It would leave Deim Zubeir empty of people except soldiers.

Sunday 31 July

It's late at night and I've just had a disturbing call from the UN.

They tell me that SPLM leader John Garang (now Sudan's vice-president) has gone missing. He had been travelling in a helicopter.

I call the IOM offices in Geneva and Nairobi to notify them and am worried about the implications of the news.

Monday 1 August

Another call from the UN at 0600 local time: with John Garang's death confirmed, all UN flights are suspended.

Get to Bile and then mourn - that's their message to their people

We are told we will have to stay where we are for the time being.

Some IOM colleagues were supposed to be flying from the capital, Khartoum, to relieve four of us this week. Now they may no longer be able to come and I am disappointed.

We are all extremely tired and I had also been looking forward in particular to seeing one of my IOM colleagues, Sukamar - a good friend of mine.

The mood among the group is sombre. Among the community leaders especially, John Garang was like a shepherd.

There is concern at where the next leader of the SPLM will come from and whether that person will keep the peace process moving in Sudan.

We get news of riots in Khartoum, Juba and elsewhere.

Commissioner Resiki and the tribal leaders discuss the death. They decide they have to keep calm and keep moving.

Get to Bile and then mourn - that's their message to their people.

Tuesday 2 August

Again I wake up very early, worrying about the trucks.

Trekkers building a bridge in Sudan
The rains have created another swamp which needs filling in

Two of them are still not working and one of them is going to have to be towed all the way back to Uganda, the other has to get to Tambura, at the other end of this newly created road.

On the positive, I am leaving Rede this afternoon with as many people as two trucks can possibly carry.

Another truck further ahead will come back to carry the remainder of the 300 people here with me.

I want to get to Bile as soon as I can, even if it means stopping to sleep by the roadside at night.

The cutting teams are about one kilometre from Bile but have a final hurdle to jump.

The rains have created another swamp right at the end of our journey. The cutters once again are infilling the ground with rocks and debris so the trucks and land cruisers can get through.

What's one more swamp so late in the day! We all have Bile in our sights.

Below, Bill answers some questions sent in by BBC News website readers.

Marin Anier Dhuol in Australia asks: will the UNHCR help these people once they get home and will they receive land? And do you have any news about people staying in Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya and when they will be returning?

No, the UNHCR is not involved in this operation. Their remit is predominantly with refugees. Other organisations, such as WFP, UNOCHA, Unicef and ICRC etc, will be helping this group.

Land really shouldn't be an issue as there are so few people in that area. If by any chance, there is a question of land, they will resolve it amongst themselves.

I am sorry, but I don't have news of Kakuma refugee camp or when the people there are going back. This is something that UNHCR will be involved with.

Kok Bol Bulabek in the UK wants to know what support the returnees will have in rejoining the community, instead of living apart as a group as it has appeared from the discussions now.

This community will receive some initial support to help them re-establish their lives in their former homes.

This will include help with food, seeds and agricultural tools as most want to return to farming. After that, they shouldn't need any additional support.

The community is adamant that it doesn't want to develop a foreign dependency culture. International organisations will make every effort to help them integrate them fully.

Do you have any other questions about the journey or want Bill to explain anything in his diary? Then drop him a line using the form below

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