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South Sudanese torn between returning home and staying in camps

Esther Muwombi
With their lives in limbo having fled their homes, many South Sudanese in Ugandan camps are desperate to return, but fears for safety persist despite August’s peace agreement.
22.10.2015  |  Adjumani, Uganda
South Sudanese refugees in Adjumani, northern Uganda, April 2015. (photo: The Niles | Esther Muwombi)
South Sudanese refugees in Adjumani, northern Uganda, April 2015. (photo: The Niles | Esther Muwombi)

“From what we hear, there seems to be some hope for peace,” says Jackson Wani. “I don't see much hope here in Uganda. We are not offered jobs, just sorghum and beans form the WFP, we can’t keep living like this. We too want a life that is moving forward and improving.”

Others fear that their children will miss out on vital years of education: “My children are missing out on school. My son had joined University on government sponsorship but now he is here, stuck. His father cannot afford to pay for him at universities here in Uganda, I guess we shall have to return home and die there. Life here is hopeless,” says Dora Alieng, a refugee in Boroli refugee camp, northern Uganda.

James Faizal Ajak, a child protection officer with the Ministry of Gender and Social Welfare, returned to Upper Nile in South Sudan to work and left his family behind as he does not consider it safe enough. “My wife and kids are here. I am not sure yet if I should return them home, but me, I took the risk as a man. At least my job requires me to be here at this Save the Children reception centre and also back in Upper Nile, so I keep traveling back and forth, and also get a chance to see my family often, but am not sure if I will return them home. It’s not safe and I have nothing to return them too. Everything I owned was destroyed during the fighting.”

And hopes are flagging. Elizabeth Yal whose small restaurant was burnt down in a fire in Nyumanzi market, said she had ditched her dreams of staying in Uganda or finding an opportunity of seeking refugee status in the US. “I hear Bor has been rebuilt already, after all, the fighting is now in Upper Nile. I think I will have to go back home and start from scratch,” she says. “It’s better than living here without a plan.”

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