Uncertainty to freedom and safety has forced many South Sudanese to always be on the journey. The endless and senseless war is what makes South Sudan insecure for both the citizens and foreign nationals working in the country.
Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 and the secession from Sudan, there were hopes that the new nation would settle down for peace, unity and development in the war ravaged country.
Thousands of children grew up in a volatile situation and have continued to face the same. In 2013, a misunderstanding between soldiers loyal to former Vice President, Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir drove thousands to Uganda.
President Salva Kiir. Photo by Reuters
And hardly after three years, another set of South Sudanese refugees were driven away. They are all seeking refuge in parts of West Nile and Acholi. According to a joint press release from Office of the Prime Minister and UN agencies, the two wars of 2013 and 2016, has forced about 865,472 refugees into Uganda and are now spread across the various settlement camps.
South Sudanese refugees registering upon entry in Adjumani. Photos by Felix
Figures are based on biometric registrations in the Government’s Refugee Information Management System, and manual emergency registration, headcounts and wrist-banding for the emergency influx of new arrivals.
Thousands of people continue to flee South Sudan to Uganda every day, 64 percent of whom are children under 18, leaving behind them tales of horrific violence. Refugees report that armed groups operating in the Equatoria region are attacking villages, killing civilians, and burning down houses, raping women and girls, and kidnapping young men and boys.
People are reportedly being prevented from using major access roads out of South Sudan, forcing many to walk through the bush for days, often without access to food and water. New arrivals report that in the weeks and months ahead, they expect thousands more will follow them to Uganda.
Feeding after a long walk from South Sudan to Rhino camp in Arua. Photo by Aribo Aluma
Addressing members of South Sudan national legislative assembly one the capital, Juba on Wednesday, President Kiir asked for forgiveness for wrongs committed.
“National dialogue in my view is both a forum and process through which the people of South Sudan can gather to redefine the basis of their unity as it relates to nationhood, and sense of belonging,” he said.
“In the light of national endeavor, I am calling upon all of you to forgive one another, enter dialogue with one another in your personal capacities and embrace yourself. I am asking you, the people of South Sudan to forgive me for any wrong I might have committed.”
The new arrivals are provided with shelter, food, water and an environment where they can live in safely. There are about 50,000 more South Sudanese refugees stuck at Koboko border with South Sudan awaiting transportation to Rhino Camp and Palorinya. The Bidibidi camp has surpassed the mark for hosting refugees with about 265,000 living there.
The South Sudanese boys having a meal at Rhino camp. Photo by Aribo Aluma
The increasing number has created a gap of severe underfunding. The Community Service Officer in Office of Prime Minister, Mr Fred Buzu, said during training by Center for Economic Governance on Tuesday, said: “The situation in South Sudan has remained volatile and this has made the numbers swell and this pose public health risks and insecurity since they are likely to out-number the locals.”
South Sudanese children at Rhino Camp settlement scrambling for water.
He said this increment has constrained the water, health and education facilities in the camps. This has also forced the officials of OPM and UNHCR to reopen a camp in Moyo district.
Currently, just 36 percent of the US$251 million needed for 2016 has been received. This is creating significant gaps in the response which threatens to compromise the abilities of humanitarian organisations to provide life-saving assistance and basic services.
Uganda has maintained open borders to allow refugees to reach safety and, as part of its settlement approach, provides them with land to build new homes and grow crops.
Give me also: A South Sudanese child cries for porridge from a brother at Rhino Camp.
Refugees in Uganda enjoy a range of rights and freedoms that allow them to gain employment, start businesses and make positive economic contributions to their host communities.
It remains vital that those with influence over the political leadership in South Sudan use all available channels to encourage the warring factions to come together in dialogue and bring an end to the bloodshed.