Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | South Sudanese refugees living in camps in the West Nile districts of Arua, Koboko, Yumbe, Obongi and Adjumani have been warned against voluntarily leaving the camps to return to their country without clearance.
Dozens of refugees have reportedly left Bidi-Bidi camp in Yumbe district for South Sudan following the revival of the peace process between the SPLA -IO and SPLM under President Salva Kiir, and the swearing-in of Riek Machar as the country’s first Vice President.
According to security reports, most of the refugees depart at night and head to settle in S. Sudan’s Yei River state with some going as far as Jongolei where there are ongoing fights between the army factions.
Yumbe Resident District Commissioner Richard Andama warns that it’s premature to ascertain peace in South Sudan immediately after the power-sharing agreement effected nearly a month ago.
“I urge the refugees to be patient and avoid rushing to go back to S. Sudan because the government and refugee agency has not issued clearance for them,” said Andama.
However, according to Taban Wani Samuel, the Refugee Welfare Councilor for Bidi-Bidi zone B10, a number of refugees leaving for South Sudan keep coming back to the camps after some time. He explains that many refugees are still sceptical of peace in their country fearing possible coups, rifts and even war among the interim unity government leaders.
He adds that even though clearance is made for their return to South Sudan, many of them are not willing to leave Uganda where they have settled for decades now.
However, Michael Lejo Anyanjo another refugee welfare council chairperson in Bidibidi Zone B1 says the action of some of the refugees moving voluntarily to South Sudan is due to individual happiness and feeling over the recent signing and formation of an interim government.
Meanwhile Solomon Osakan, the refugee desk officer W. Nile says that although there is a semblance of peace in South Sudan, refugees should wait for clearance from a team of government officials from Uganda and South Sudan.
According to reports from the Refugee desk in West Nile, Adjumani currently receives about 800 refugees per week some of who are taken to Rhino Camp in Arua district, while Koboko district receives between 20 to 30 aliens in a day.