Since the onset of ethnically-motivated conflict within South Sudan in December 2013, an estimated 150,000 South Sudanese civilians have fled the violence to neighboring Uganda. Government officials and civilians alike have cited the remarkably accepting refugee policies exercised by Uganda as catalysts for these migrations.
Refugees who travel to Uganda for asylum are met with an abundance of economic and social opportunities upon their arrival. Unlike many other nations currently experiencing heightened influxes of refugees due to the persistence of several regional conflicts, Uganda does not place newly arrived migrants into refugee camps operated by the United Nations and other foreign aid organizations.
Instead, refugees who successfully escape their conflict-ravaged homelands for the peace and security of Uganda are presented with the opportunity to move into permanent settlements where they are provided with their own plot of land. Additionally, various U.N. agencies provide access to food, water and home construction resources for newly arrived refugees. Localized primary schools and health clinics are commonly accessible in these areas of Uganda and are responsible for providing valuable resources to newly settled migrant populations.
Titus Jogo, refugee desk officer for the Adjumani District in Northern Uganda, stated in a recent interview regarding the legal statuses of South Sudanese refugees seeking asylum that “They have all the rights that are attributed to any human being, irrespective of their status as refugees.”
The conflict within South Sudan, the newest nation in the world after its founding in 2012, was initially caused by political disputes between President Salva Kiir and his former Deputy Minister, Riek Machar. The conflict has largely consisted of multiple tribal factions, including the Neur Tribe (loyal to Machar), and the Dinka group (loyal to President Kiir); both of these tribal groups have been accused by international monitoring groups of committing war crimes and human rights violations, including ethnically-targeted massacres and sexual assaults.
The most recent report provided by the UNHCR estimates that more than 730,000 people have fled the conflict in South Sudan to neighboring nations such as Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. This report also estimates that an additional 1.5 million South Sudanese civilians are currently suffering from internal displacement due to the escalation in ethnic violence. Many of these displaced civilians experience frequent relocations to areas known as “protection-of-civilians” sites. These sites are coordinated by the U.N. Mission in South Sudan and provide secure refugee camps for civilians who have fled their homes.
Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon recently explained in a statement regarding conditions within South Sudan, “The violence that has ravaged South Sudan over the past 18 months proves that there can never be a military solution to this conflict. I therefore call on all leaders of South Sudan – particularly President Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar–to prove their leadership by investing in a political solution and immediately concluding a comprehensive peace agreement. At the same time, the international community must take decisive steps to help end the fighting.”
The UNHCR recently released an international appeal for increased foreign aid designated for the current mission within South Sudan, noting the mounting number of refugees traveling to neighboring countries has depleted financial resources. While the organization estimates that $99 million is necessary to continue funding this operation, only nine percent of this goal has been raised to date.
The report explained that “Current resources remain insufficient to provide vital life-saving assistance and services, particularly in the areas of health, education and livelihoods and environment. Many South Sudanese refugee children, their country’s hope for the future, face key barriers to education including overcrowding in classrooms, a lack of teachers, and a lack of recreational activities to support constructive social engagement.”
– James Miller Thornton