Uganda wel­comes Su­dan refugees

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

KAMPALA — As Euro­peans pon­tif­i­cate the pros and cons of al­low­ing des­per­ate refugees into their coun­tries, Uganda, a poor coun­try with a frac­tion of the re­sources of many Euro­pean coun­tries, has an open-door refugee pol­icy and is help­ing many African refugees to re­build their lives.

“Uganda has the most pro­gres­sive pol­icy to­wards refugees in all of Africa,” UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Pro­tec­tion Of­fi­cer in Ad­ju­mani, near the South Su­dan bor­der, Akiko Tsu­ji­sawa told the African News Agency (ANA).

“It not only al­lows refugees to come into the coun­try but helps them to re­build their lives by giv­ing them land to cul­ti­vate in re­set­tle­ment camps and ac­cess to so­cial ser­vices,” said Tsu­ji­sawa.

The UNHCR is work­ing with the Ugan­dan govern­ment in Ad­ju­mani to help ap­prox­i­mately 132 000 South Su­danese refugees who have fled the vi­o­lence in South Su­dan.

“Uganda has a long his­tory of help­ing refugees start­ing with Jewish refugees who es­caped the Nazis dur­ing the Sec­ond World War,” said Ti­tus Jogo, Ugan­dan govern­ment Refugee Desk Of­fi­cer for refugees in Ad­ju­mani

“We’ve been tak­ing in refugees for decades from South Su­dan, the Congo, the Cen­tral African Repub­lic (CAR), Rwanda and Bu­rundi,” Jogo told ANA.

“But we also know what it’s like to be the source of refugees. Thou­sands of Ugan­dans of In­dian ori­gin were ex­pelled from the coun­try un­der Idi Amin’s rule dur­ing the 70s. Thou­sands of other Ugan­dans also fled the slaugh­ter.

“Our 2006 Refugee Law Pol­icy guides our treat­ment of refugees and it is hu­man-rights based. The pol­icy in­volves free­dom of move­ment and the right to so­cial ser­vices such as med­i­cal treat­ment and ed­u­ca­tion,” Jogo told ANA.

On their ar­rival, South Su­danese refugees are al­lo­cated 30 x 30 m2 plots of land to farm by the Ugan­dan govern­ment.

Much of the land is pro­vided by the vil­lagers of Ad­ju­mani, a poor ru­ral com­mu­nity without ac­cess to elec­tric­ity or run­ning wa­ter for the most part.

Due to the gen­eros­ity of the Ad­ju­mani vil- lagers, two South Su­danese refugees who barely es­caped with their lives, and their fam­i­lies, now see a fu­ture.

“They didn’t shoot me dead be­cause they mis­took me for be­ing a Nuer as I could speak their lan­guage,” said Doc­tor Ja­cob Kuanyin, an eth­nic Dinka, who was work­ing at a govern­ment hospi­tal in Bor, the cap­i­tal of Su­dan’s Jon­glei state be­fore he fled to Uganda.

A two-year civil war, be­tween sup­port­ers of South Su­dan Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir and sup­port­ers of for­mer op­po­si­tion leader Riek Machar, raged for two years from 2013 un­til Machar re­turned in late April to the Cap­i­tal Juba to take up his po­si­tion as vice pres­i­dent of a unity tran­si­tional govern­ment.

“Last De­cem­ber gun­men sup­port­ing Machar raided the hospi­tal where I was work­ing. They then pro­ceeded to di­vide the peo­ple ac­cord­ing to whether they were Nuer or Dinka,” Kuanyin told ANA.

“They shot those iden­ti­fied as Dinka, in­clud­ing health work­ers and even the wounded. But af­ter mis­tak­enly iden­ti­fy­ing me as a Nuer they left their wounded fighters un­der my care. I saw bod­ies from both sides lin­ing the streets.

“Dur­ing a lull in the fight­ing I fled to Uganda with my wife and three chil­dren. I was given land and a loan from the UNHCR and the Ugan­dan govern­ment and I’ve now set up a small med­i­cal clinic in Nyu­manzi set­tle­ment,” said Kuanyin.

Chorl Manyok, 36, a mar­ried fa­ther of three and an eth­nic Dinka, now runs a small gro­cery store in Nyu­manzi Set­tle­ment.

“I fled South Su­dan in 2014 af­ter my par­ents were shot dead by gun­men. We had to hide in the bush for days and then travel for sev­eral days to reach the Ugan­dan bor­der,” Manyok told ANA.

Ac­cord­ing to UNHCR more than 20 000 refugees fled the world’s new­est coun­try dur­ing 2015.

Now not only is Manyok’s busi­ness grow­ing but he is now go­ing to busi­ness school.

How­ever, de­spite the enor­mous im­prove­ment in the qual­ity of their lives, South Su­danese face nu­mer­ous prob­lems.

Kuanyin said he needed more medicines to treat his pa­tients and many of them were suf­fer­ing from psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma.

The health cen­tres be­ing run by the UNHCR in Ad­ju­mani’s 17 refugee set­tle­ments are very ba­sic and bat­tling sev­eral dis­eases in­clud­ing malaria.

“Not enough South Su­danese chil­dren are be­ing en­rolled in sec­ondary school due to fund­ing and bur­sary short­ages. There are also in­suf­fi­cient class­rooms and teach­ing ma­te­ri­als for the school chil­dren with many classes con­ducted in tents,” Tsu­ji­sawa told ANA.

“The rigid cul­tural at­ti­tude among refugees has been an im­ped­i­ment. Child mar­riages, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and rape are con­doned by the com­mu­nity lead­er­ship where tra­di­tional meth­ods of dis­pute res­o­lu­tion take prece­dence,” re­ported the UNHCR.

In re­sponse, the UNHCR has ini­ti­ated the roll out of Start Aware­ness Sup­port Ac­tion (SASA) method­ol­ogy which in­volves a self-ex­am­i­na­tion process of all cat­e­gories of com­mu­nity mem­bers in­clud­ing men and is ex­pected to achieve re­sults in the long run.

Jogo said en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion as land was cleared for agri­cul­tural plots for the refugees was a prob­lem.

“The trees will not grow fast enough to re­plen­ish the for­est de­stroyed and our land re­sources are not fi­nite. Ad­di­tion­ally Uganda has a high birth rate with a fast-grow­ing pop­u­la­tion,” Jogo told ANA.

“We also have fund­ing short­ages as in­ter­na­tional donors suf­fer from donor fa­tigue, es­pe­cially with the Syr­ian refugee cri­sis.

“My hope is that there will be peace in South Su­dan and the refugees will be will­ingly repa­tri­ated as we had not ex­pected them to stay in­def­i­nitely,” said Jogo.

How­ever, the UN has re­ported that the num­ber of refugees flee­ing South Su­dan has spiked dra­mat­i­cally since the for­ma­tion of the tran­si­tional unity govern­ment.

“The in­crease in refugees is a re­flec­tion of the con­tin­ued fight­ing, in­se­cu­rity and un­cer­tainty,” Tsu­ji­sawa told ANA.

“I will never re­turn to South Su­dan while Riek Machar is alive,” Manyok told ANA.

— African News Agency

Al­most 80,000 South Su­danese flee to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries as fight­ing gen­er­ates more dis­place­ment.

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