Why South Sudan risks losing refugees abroad

Why South Sudan risks losing refugees abroad
The Deputy Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of SPLM/A-IO and the First Deputy Speaker of the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA), Oyet Nathaniel Pierino. [Photo: Courtesy]

The First Deputy Speaker of the Revitalised Transitional Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA), Oyet Nathaniel, has warned that the country could lose a quarter of its population currently seeking refuge in other countries.

Mr. Oyet said the international mechanisms on the local integration of a person who has lived in a certain country for more than five years is likely to affect the South Sudanese population if they choose to neutralise their citizenship in the host countries.

“Local integration in their host communities either in Uganda, Kenya, or other countries, even in Ethiopia, after living for so long in those countries and the situation back home does not improve, they choose to be locally integrated,’’ Oyet said.

Danger lurks

“We are counting millions of refugees outside the country. My question is, with this policy of local integration, whether we, as leaders, will be happy for a quarter of our population to integrate where they are staying and we lose our population, “added Oyet.

Oyet, who doubles as the Deputy Chairman of the SPLM/A-IO, was speaking at the opening session of a two-day roundtable discussion for members of the Revitalised Transitional Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA) on the domestication of the Kampala Convention, the South Sudan durable solutions strategy, and conventions on statelessness in Juba on Wednesday.

According to Mr. Oyet, South Sudan will inevitably lose its people should the country fail to implement Chapter Two of the 2018 revitalised peace agreement critical to the overall peace process. This would enable the IDPs and refugees to return home before being integrated into their host communities abroad. 

“Security arrangement, permanent ceasefire, and a cessation of hostility will lead to the unification of combatants so that they become a national force to protect the country, protect the people. If we achieve this locally, “he said.

South Sudan, one of the largest refugee-producing countries in Africa, has an estimated 2.2 million of its estimated 13 million people seeking refuge in its six neighbouring countries: Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.

Uganda, Sudan, and Kenya host more than three-quarters of the country’s refugees and asylum seekers, each hosting an estimated 964,960, 799,545, and 139,846 people, respectively.

Recently, President Salva Kiir repeated calls on refugees to return home and rebuild their livelihoods, ordering forces’ commanders to effect a conducive environment through the provision of security to encourage voluntary repatriation.

“Let us clear the situation in South Sudan so that our people can come back. Those who are in the PoCs should come out. Those who are refugees also should come back, and all these things, if they happen, will be through you, who are the commanders of the joint forces, “said President Kiir.

However, these calls have been met with resistance by both the refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs who feel unsafe if they come home before the full implementation of the revitalised peace agreement.

On several occasions, most of the returnees have fled back to Uganda or Kenya after facing security challenges in some parts of Equatoria, including, Yei, Lainya, Magwi, and Kajo-Keji.