Guest Column

South Sudan needs fresh ideas

2017-05-07 06:25
A child crosses through mud as people receive rations of water at the UN compound in the Tomping area in Juba. (AFP)

A child crosses through mud as people receive rations of water at the UN compound in the Tomping area in Juba. (AFP)

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In the years leading up to the South Sudan independence in 2011, the people of Sudan were hosted at the Imvepi refugee camp in Uganda.

The euphoria following the birth of a new nation gave hope for political stability in the region.

Unfortunately, that calm environment didn’t last for long.

A fresh outbreak of violence has again gripped Sudan, throwing the area into yet another turmoil.

The camp at Imvepi had to be reopened to deal with the flow of refugees into Uganda and that is putting a strain on their resources.

The latest exodus has affected countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, creating the world’s largest refugee camp in Bidi Bidi.

The people of South Sudan are running away from their native land because their leaders are failing to manage their political differences and placing their citizens’ lives in danger.

Part of the problems in South Sudan range from allegations of tribalism, with President Salva Kiir who is an ethnic Dinga and Vice-President Riek Machar a Nuer fighting for space and access to resources.

The violence is in response to one tribe feeling isolated and economically restricted.

At the centre it is also informed by the removal of President Kiir’s vice-president, dismissing others from the army and alleged lack of integration.

The reversal of sacking the vice-president has not necessarily informed peace, as both leaders do not trust each other and continue to operate outside the agreed terms and conditions.

With all these, while the two giants are busy fighting, ordinary civilians suffer the most, with women and children as major casualties.

Rape and torture is carried out with impunity and lawlessness is the order of the day.

Africa must not look away because this conflict will spiral into genocide.

With Uganda’s progressive refugee laws – which include a comprehensive rehabilitation programme for the youth, the right to own land and use it for agricultural purposes, travelling freely in the country, access to healthcare and education – the influx of South Sudanese is putting a strain on the government of the day.

It is feeling the pinch and locals are starting to complain about this influx. To make matters worse, other African countries have not come to the assistance of Uganda.

The influx continuous to test the resilience of Ugandans.

For years Uganda’s 2006 Refugees Act has worked positively with no constraints and there is existing evidence that refugees can economically develop a host country and be integrated into normal life.

The challenge started when the conflict erupted in 2013 and in July 2016 matters became worse in South Sudan which was a situation that Uganda was not prepared to handle.

Uganda must be assisted to deal with the influx and demands thereof.

There is a need for practical steps to help at the refugee camp – from Doctors without Borders to retired professionals, they ought to rise and offer their services.

The people of South Sudan need it now more than ever. Beyond paying lip service with yearly peace accords which continue to be undermined, President Kiir and his vice-president must do the right thing.

If need be, they must step aside if they can’t resolve the situation in Sudan, and make way for fresh ideas.

Siweya is the founder of Africa Unmasked and a member of the ANC Youth League’s national executive committee

Read more on:    salva kiir  |  uganda  |  tribalism  |  refugee camp
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