July 16, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Refugees at a resettlement camp in Uganda’s Kiryandongo district have accused the South Sudanese government of intimidation, saying they feared for their own safety.
- South Sudanese refugees waiting in line to receive food at the Dzaipi transit centre in Uganda (Photo: UNHCR/ F. Noy)
The accusation came after team of officials from the embassy of South Sudan in Kampala flew to the camp on Wednesday to conduct training between members of the Dinka and Nuer tribes.
Binin Kwajien Tut, a representative of refugees of Nuer ethnicity at the camp, told Sudan Tribune by phone on Wednesday that the embassy teams had a political agenda, leading some refugees to react violently.
Tut claims that during a meeting, visiting officials denied that government forces were responsible for carrying out targeted ethnic killings.
A scuffle subsequently broke out between visiting officials and refugees who had lost relatives in an alleged massacre in the capital, Juba, forcing the meeting to be abandoned.
He said staff from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and Ugandan police had been forced to intervene to restore calm and ensure the safety of officials.
Tut says insecurity within the camp had been worsening, adding that one of the refugees who previously worked in South Sudan had disappeared three weeks ago and his whereabouts remains unknown.
“We have failed to understand why officials from South Sudan interfered with refugees’ status, meanwhile our staying in Uganda was for [the] purpose of our safety,” said Tut.
He told Sudan Tribune that most of the refugees now live in a state on ongoing fear and anxiety due to the presence and movement of South Sudanese security personal in the camp. Tut also expressed concern that the UNHCR was not doing enough to guarantee the safety of refugees.
He alleged that Ugandan police officials had arrested a member of the South Sudanese security agency who had been deployed in the camp to monitor refugee activities. It is rumoured the official has since been released.
“The UN is so reluctant about our security in the camp. We are not secure after all these incidents,” said Tut.
“We feel that we are not safe here and we are urging the UNHCR to keep [its] eyes on us rather than the government of Uganda to do [the] work alone,” he added.
The refugees have blamed Ugandan authorities and the UNHCR for not doing enough to abolish politics activities at the resettlement camp.
Conflict in South Sudan erupted in mid-December last year after a political split within the ruling SPLN, triggering tribal tensions across the country.
Government soldiers and militia loyal to the president Salva Kiir are accused of carrying out targeted ethnic killings after rounding up Nuer civilians in Juba at the start of the conflict.
The violence has killed thousands and displaced more than a million people, with hundreds of thousands fleeing to neighbouring countries, including Uganda.