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عربي

Border bribes add to woes of South Sudanese refugees

Bonifacio Taban
Refugees who recently fled into neighbouring Uganda report that South Sudanese security forces along the country’s border with Uganda forced them to pay bribes to cross.
29.08.2016  |  Bweyale, Uganda
Displaced people loading their belongings on a truck in Keri, preparing for their relocation to a refugee settlement, July 20, 2016. (photo: The Niles | Male Daniel)
Displaced people loading their belongings on a truck in Keri, preparing for their relocation to a refugee settlement, July 20, 2016. (photo: The Niles | Male Daniel)

Several refugees accused armed men in uniforms of demanding bribes before refugees could cross the international border to safety.

South Sudanese pastor Samuel Malish fled Yei last week. He said thousands of civilians are hiding in the bush around Yei, while only a few try crossing the border to Uganda.

Malish accused South Sudanese security officials of blocking civilians from crossing to Uganda. He said those who try to cross the border are being asked to pay money.

From what I see is, there are people who are organised.

“From what I see is, there are people who are organised,” he said, adding that last month’s fighting in Juba has caused more suffering among civilians who now fear their country will witness even more violecne.

Malish says many civilians have no hope for peace and view their only option as fleeing the country. “South Sudan is back again to its story of war and conflict […]. We have to take our children for refuge,” he said.

For example, 18-year-old Mariam Kiden says she walked for five days from Yei before she crossed the South Sudan-Uganda border with family members. She says she and the rest of her family fled Yei after heavy fighting broke out between South Sudanese warring parties in the area mid August.

“There are so many things people are running from in Yei,” she said. Kiden added that South Sudanese authorities prevented men including her father from crossing to Uganda.

Steven Lodu Onesimo, the Yei River State Government Information Minister, said the the state government is not aware of officials blocking the exit route or of security forces demanding money from fleeing refugees.

South Sudan is back again to its story of war and conflict.

Refugee Stephen Wani said that he fears that the refugee camps stationed along the Uganda-South Sudan borders are not safe, so he opted to travel to the Kiryandongo District, which is much farther from the border.

Wani was studying in South Sudan, but said he had no option but to flee the country after the heavy fighting resumed.

Aid agencies are reporting that more than 80,000 South Sudanese have crossed into Uganda from South Sudan since fighting flared up in Juba last month, with the military forces accused of killing civilians.

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