South Su­dan is slowly be­com­ing an aban­doned cri­sis area

East African Business Week - - EDITORIAL -

While Uganda is wel­com­ing the South Su­dan refugees with open arms and help­ing re­set­tle them, the ques­tion that begs and an­swer is, when will all this stop? The UNHCR says more than 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple have been forced to leave the coun­try and seek safety since con­flict erupted in De­cem­ber 2013, and an ad­di­tional 2.1 mil­lion peo­ple are dis­placed in­side South Su­dan. Thou­sands of civil­ians have been killed, of­ten be­cause of their eth­nic­ity or per­ceived po­lit­i­cal al­liances in South Su­dan’s on­go­ing con­flict. Large parts of key towns and es­sen­tial civil­ian in­fra­struc­ture such as clin­ics, hos­pi­tals, and schools, have been looted, de­stroyed, and aban­doned. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple are still shel­ter­ing in United Na­tions com­pounds, too afraid to re­turn home. Lack of ac­count­abil­ity for decades of vi­o­lence dur­ing Su­dan’s long civil war helped fuel the con­flict. Mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers on all sides have failed to make any se­ri­ous at­tempt to re­duce abuses com­mit­ted by their forces, or to hold them to ac­count. With this large-scale dis­place­ment, South Su­dan is now Africa’s largest refugee cri­sis and the world’s third af­ter Syria and Afghanistan – with less at­ten­tion and chronic lev­els of un­der fund­ing. “We are ap­peal­ing on all par­ties in­volved in the con­flict for an ur­gent peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of the cri­sis, with­out which, thou­sands con­tinue to ar­rive in South Su­dan’s neigh­bour­ing coun­tries of Uganda, Ethiopia, Su­dan, Kenya, Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo and in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic ev­ery day with the con­flict now in its fourth year,” said UNHCR spokesper­son William Spindler. In­tense fight­ing broke out in South Su­dan in July last year fol­low­ing the col­lapse of a peace deal be­tween the gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion forces. More than 760,000 refugees fled the coun­try in 2016, as the con­flict in­ten­si­fied in the se­cond half of the year – on an av­er­age of 63,000 peo­ple were forced to leave the coun­try per month. Some half a mil­lion had to flee in the last four months since Septem­ber 2016. More than 60 per cent of the refugees are chil­dren, many ar­riv­ing with alarm­ing lev­els of mal­nu­tri­tion – en­dur­ing dev­as­tat­ing im­pact of the bru­tal­i­ties of the on­go­ing con­flict. As the global dis­place­ment trends re­flect, those flee­ing South Su­dan are be­ing hosted by the poor­est com­mu­ni­ties in the neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, un­der im­mense pres­sure with scarce re­sources. The ma­jor­ity of the refugees are be­ing hosted by Uganda, where some 698,000 have ar­rived. Ethiopia is host­ing some 342,000, while more than 305,000 are in Su­dan and some 89,000 in Kenya, 68,000 in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo and 4,900 in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic. A last­ing so­lu­tion has to be found to this prob­lem, oth­er­wise we shall see the end of the frag­ile peace in the re­gion. His­tor­i­cally, South Su­dan fought a bat­tle for free­dom against the op­pres­sive Su­danese regieme which has since been ac­cused of eth­nic cleans­ing and other atroc­i­ties in the Dar­fur re­gion. Sev­eral East Africa coun­tries were in­volved in this bat­tle for free­dom and there was even help from other parts of Africa. When South Su­dan fi­nally gained her in­de­pen­dence from Khartoum, there was a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief and the re­gion hoped all would be well. Un­for­tu­nately, this is not the case.

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