Uganda tells South Sudan to support refugees

Uganda tells South Sudan to support refugees
A group of South Sudanese refugees in Sudan (photo credit: file)

Uganda’s government has urged South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo to mobilise resources and start supporting their refugees in Uganda.

The Daily Monitor reported that Uganda’s Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness, and Refugees, Esther Anyakun Davina, said now is the time for the countries whose citizens have been forced to flee to Uganda to start supporting them across the borders.

It is said that by the end of February, Uganda had a total of 1,595,405 refugees, of whom 964,960 were from South Sudan. The number has since grown, with more than 35,000 new arrivals in March and April from the DRC.

Esther made the demand during a meeting with the steering group of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) on Wednesday in Kampala last week.

“South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo must begin to mobilise resources and send them to Uganda because it is we who are keeping, feeding, and hosting these refugees.

 “It is us, Uganda, doing everything, so these countries must start mobilising resources and send them to Uganda for the refugee response,” she said.

When reached for a comment, South Sudan’s Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister, Deng Dau Deng, said although the Ugandan government and UNHCR had not officially communicated on the matter, he believes refugee regulations clearly indicate how such individuals should be treated.

“I think the simple definition of a refugee is a person that has run away from his or her country of origin because of one or two things, whereby the receiving countries take on the responsibilities of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR),” Dau stated.

‘Not our burden’

He further revealed that the South Sudan government has not entered into a bilateral dialogue with UNHCR or the Ugandan government regarding financing the refugees.

“In summary, neither UNHCR nor the Ugandan government has communicated to us in this manner. During this tough period in the country, however, the South Sudanese government has usurped Uganda’s help to its citizens, “Dau added.

According to Article 1A of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, protecting refugees is the primary responsibility of the hosting countries.

In this sense, countries that have signed the 1951 Convention are obliged to protect refugees on their territory and treat them under internationally recognised standards.

On the other hand, Dau said they have been hearing positive news about South Sudanese refugees returning in big numbers and voluntarily. He said the government was working hard to put in place the necessary systems to accommodate them.

He urged refugees in neighbouring countries to return home, saying the country is already at peace.

“We want to let the refugees in Uganda and elsewhere know that South Sudan is now peaceful, and they are welcome to return to their homeland at any time.”

According to him, nearly 600,000 South Sudanese refugees have returned home in the last nine months from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan.

Dau revealed that when he visited Magwi County in Eastern Equatoria State on Monday, more than 75 per cent of the population had returned from Uganda.

“The purpose of our visit was to reaffirm the government’s commitment to assisting the communities, to let them know that the government is concerned about their well-being, and to see the homecoming of Ugandan refugees.”

He described it as “something positive” in terms of refugees returning to the country and the government’s efforts to restore lasting peace in the country.

Dau urged local communities across the country to embrace the returnees and offer them the necessary support in terms of peaceful coexistence to inspire more people to return home.