In the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Bweyale, Uganda, South Sudanese new arrivals start their day at the back of a long queue to register for simple necessities – shelter, food and basic household items so that they can start a new life. The settlement is managed by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
With dead bodies lying in the capital, I can’t believe I walked out safely.
Twenty-year-year old Tinah Anna has just arrived and is still traumatised by what she saw as she fled Juba. “With dead bodies lying in the capital, I can’t believe I walked out safely,” she says. She adds that she is disappointed because she expects her children to now have to live the same cycle of war as she did as a child. “I was born in war, I grew up and acquired little education in war and now I am back to a refugee life again,” she says.
Nearly 40,000 South Sudanese nationals have crossed the border into Uganda in the 20 days since fighting erupted again in Juba. Thousands continue to flee the South Sudanese capital westwards. UNHCR reports from camps in Uganda suggest that up to 4,000 people are still arriving through various border crossings every day.
The mood among many new arrivals in settlements is one of mixed relief and despair. “I believe living a refugee life is better than waiting to have a gun pointed at you,” says Amuna Rigina Edward, who crossed over to Uganda with her four children. Edward says she is less worried now because her children have enrolled in school and she has found a way to earn some money selling vegetables to other new arrivals.
“Leaders bring no hope”
South Sudanese leaders bring no hope to the population.
Edward accuses the leaders of South Sudan of causing mass humanitarian devastation just to advance their own interests. “There are no leaders of people, just leaders of self interest. Because a serious leader is supposed to wake up right from day one when there is something in his/her house which is not okay and stop it. Or talk about it. But South Sudanese leaders bring no hope to the population. If they mean to act violently, we have to stay in the camps where there is peace,” Edward told The Niles. She urged South Sudan’s leaders to visit the refugee settlements and see the suffering their clashes have caused.
A staff member with Ugandan NGO InterAid – which offers humanitarian assistance to asylum seekers in Uganda - confirmed that more than 20,000 refugees have arrived in different settlements near the border with South Sudan since fighting erupted again on July 7, in Juba.
Charity Aba, who works for InterAid in a camp in Bweyale, northern Uganda, says that local organisations are coping with the sudden influx of people nevertheless. “There are 27 organisations in Uganda working to support refugees,” Aba says, adding that for now humanitarian agencies are managing to register and supply all new arrivals.