DIT ABRAHAM KUANY (JUBA). South Sudanese refugees in Uganda have appealed to parties to the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) to fully implement the peace agreement in order for them to return home.
According to UNHCR, the number of registered South Sudanese refugees in Uganda has crossed the one million threshold as of fall 2017, which are mostly located at Adjumani, Arua, Kiryandongo and Kampala districts.
In an exclusive with the Northern Corridor Morning Post, since the announcement of the cabinet last month, various refugees’ leaders revealed that displaced people would like to return back home but first need assurance of safety. Such a move would include total implementation of the peace deal by coalition government as well as the commitment to execute the agreed upon concessions to the latter.
Moses Nyang – the chairman of Nyamanzi Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda’s Adjumani District which hosts about 43, 000 refugees says they are frustrated by hard difficulties they are encountering while at the settlement and would like to return to their homes if durable peace is achieved.
“Here, refugees are facing numerous problems. Last year, we had conflict over resources with the host population which led to loss of lives on both sides. We have challenges of accessing services like quality education, proper health facilities, clean and safe water. There is also the issue of low food quantity provided by the United Nations, and the worse part of it is, we are an able to farm because the host communities don’t allow it.
“We as refugees would like to go back home, and thus I expect the unity government to prioritize security at grassroots levels, carry out reconciliation and healing. Subjecting ourselves to refuge all the time isn’t entertaining” Moses stressed.
For her part, Mary Ajwok, a Trainer of Trainees at Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative at Kiryandongo District urged new government to create jobs back home in order for refugees who have lost hope of returning to South Sudan be influenced.
“Most of the people we interact with have lost hope of going home, this is because they are not considered by their government. The leaders should visit them and listen to their concerns, so that they can clarify those doubts. My additional appeal to the government is to invest in the education sector and creation of more jobs so that when refugees return, they can get jobs and proceed with their studies” said Mary.
Meanwhile, Martin Ssebowo, the chairman of Rhino refugee settlement, which in a day receives an estimate of 200 new influxes stresses that what worries him is how the camp continues to receive new arrivals everyday yet the peace deal seems to be holding.
“Some refugees have hope and, in many occasions, think that since this time the leaders are serious, the peace will hold and they maybe go back home soon. Since the war broke out, we have been unable to settle.
“This time the refugees would want to return home when durable peace is achieved, particularly when there are no more road attacks, political attacks, and targeted killings Martin” stressed
In addition, John Jal – a young South Sudanese refugee initiated a community base organization Youth Social Advocacy Team to advocate against gender base violence, rights of refugees and strengthen peaceful co-existence across various camps in Northern Uganda.
He expresses worries that the unity government should prioritize projects aimed at returning refugees back home due to fears that donors may pull out soon.
“The moment there is peace back home, we are being treated like we are visitors, service delivery becomes a problem, and organizations begin to get scared of their status in humanitarian operations. This dynamic is affecting the refugees a lot. And thus, such should worry the Unity Government and should also quickly build a national agenda, putting in mind that refugees’ return safely and freely.
“My main appeal to the government is that it should give the rights of citizens back to them. The peace agreement should give the citizens the right to associate, the right to speak, the right to freedom and it’s when these rights are offered that we can transform South Sudan” said Jal.
Speaking during the swearing ceremony of Vice Presidents last month, President Kiir called on citizens to take up the implementation of the deal solely so that refugees and IDPs can be resettled.
President Kiir called on citizens in the UN “Protection of Civilians” sites to come out and for refugees in neighbouring countries to return home and resettle, “the government will do its utmost best to ensure they are supported and resettled in their home areas”.
“We don’t want a repeat of what happened in 2016 but once we have full unification of the forces, there will be peace and this will pave way for the return of refugees to the country, and for the internally displaced persons returned back home and that why we as SPLM-IG calls for unification of forces” Kiir added
According to UN reports, the 2013 and 2016 civil wars left more than 400, 000 people dead, over 4 million people displaced to the neighbouring countries and with the entire country in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Civil wars that are attributed by political experts to fight for political leadership between President Salva Kiir and his current First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, fuelled and supported by their associates.