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Generous Uganda opens new settlement for South Sudan refugees | Coastweek

LAMWO South Sudan (Xinhua) -- A Ugandan policeman [left] inspects the belongings of a South Sudanese refugee at Ngomoromo in Lamwo, northern Ugandan. South Sudanese refugees [right] are seen at Ngomoromo in Lamwo. Since the start of the year, some 192,000 South Sudanese have fled to neighboring Uganda, a country currently hosting 832,000 refugees from South Sudan, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported. XINHUA PHOTOS - RONALD SSEKANDI

Generous Uganda opens new settlement for South Sudan refugees

by Ronald Ssekandi LAMWO, Uganda (Xinhua) -- As the day broke on Thursday, South Sudanese refugee Joseph Okumu at Ngomoromo, a small border post in the northern Ugandan district of Lamwo, was anxiously waiting for the trip to his next destination in Uganda.

Okumu fled to Uganda about a week ago after his home town Pajok was engulfed in fighting between government troops and rebels. His family joined the over 5,000 South Sudan refugees who fled the fighting and are now at Ngomoromo.

Buses and trucks on Wednesday started transporting the refugees from the border post to a new refugee settlement in Palabek about 60 km away from the border post.

Carrying a few of their belongings like mattresses, cooking utensils, the refugees boarded the buses to create space at the already crowded border post.

They are being transported by the Ugandan government and the UN refugee agency UNHCR to the new settlement where they will be given plots of land to settle down.

"We have been transporting them to West Nile but now were are taking them to the new settlement so that we can decongest this place.

"Since last week we have had around 5,000 South Sudan refugees here at Ngomoromo," Joy Bamutya, a refugee officer with the Ugandan government told Xinhua.

After the 60-km bumpy and dusty ride, Okumu’s family arrived at Palabek Refugee Settlement.

They went through health screening and were given a hot meal.

Okumu’s family will after 24 hours be given a piece of land where he will set up a tent for shelter and also cultivate.

At the settlement, there was already a beehive of activities as different families are setting up camp.

Relief agencies like the UN World Food Programme are also setting up a food store.

The opening of Palabek Refugee Settlement followed the rapid filling up of other refugee settlements that are hosting South Sudanese refugees.

Of the over 1.5 million South Sudanese who have fled the country since fighting broke out in December 2013, over 800,000 are in Uganda.

Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement that was opened up early this year quickly filled up, making it the largest refugee camp in the world.

The camp hosts over 30,000 South Sudanese refugees.

Many refugees are rushing to Uganda, which is acclaimed for its open refugee policy and where refugees are given land to settle and cultivate.

Yet the country has warned that it is at a breaking point as it does not have enough resources to accomodate the increasing number of refugees.

The country and aid agencies have called for increased international assistance but little is trickling in.

Relief agencies like the UN World Food Programme are struggling to provide food to the increasing number of refugees.

Last year, the food aid agencies reduced the food rations given to refugees who fled South Sudan earlier than 2013 so that it can be able to cater for the new arrivals.

Relief experts argue that the major global powers seem to be concentrating more on other crises in the world, for instance the Syrian crisis.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni while meeting the visiting South Sudan’s First Vice President Taban Deng Gai earlier this week urged the leadership to help end the bloodshed.

"I call upon all people of South Sudan to refrain from violence.

|The only politically viable way is peace and dialogue to achieve development," Museveni said.

South Sudanese children of war ponder future in Uganda

by Ronald Ssekandi LAMWO, Uganda (Xinhua) -- It was a normal day at Pajok Primary School. The head teacher had just finished briefing the pupils during the morning assembly.

At the neighboring Ayela Primary School, it was the same routine until hell broke loose.

Gunfire started and children were asked to run home.

Several of them, according to Joseph Okumu, the head teacher of Ayela Primary School, were killed.

Okumu rushed home to rescue his children and wife but did not find them.

Only his 76 year-old-mother was left in the house.

Okumu quickly gathered what he could and rode his bicycle carrying with his mother for about 15 km to the neighboring northern Ugandan district of Lamwo.

This was another cycle of movement sparked off by continued fighting between government troops and rebels in South Sudan.

The attack on Pajok about two weeks sparked the relocation of over 5,000 South Sudanese to Uganda fleeing for safety. Most of them, according to the UN Refugee Agency, are women and children.

As the world focused its attention on war in Syria, the children in this part of the world continue to ponder where their future will be.

Okumu’s wish is for his two daughters, who he later found in Uganda after they fled with their mother, to continue schooling.

He said while his future might be ruined, at least that of his children should be guaranteed through education.

At Ngomoromo refugee reception center here in Lamwo, hundreds of children have been relocated to another refugee settlement over 50 km away from the border.

Aid agencies argue that that the reception center is overcrowded, which may cause health hazards.

"They are not in the best of conditions, many children are malnourished, there are pregnant mothers who need help," Joy Bamutya, a refugee officer told Xinhua.

South Sudan has plunged into fighting since late 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his then deputy Riek Machar.

The UN said it needs urgent help to provide humanitarian relief not only to the victims of the Pajok attack but also the other South Sudanese who have fled fighting.

UN figures show that of the over 1.5 million South Sudanese who have fled fighting, over 800,000 are in Uganda.

Many of the refugees occupy Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement in northwestern Uganda.

It is now ranked the largest settlement in the world, according to UNHCR.

"Uganda has turned out to be the biggest refugee host country in Africa with over 1.3 million refugees.

"Uganda needs support and this operation is critically underfunded," Wellington Carneiro, Field Officer UNHCR Lamwo, told Xinhua.

Uganda, which is globally acclaimed to having an open refugee policy, has said it is at the brink of breakdown as it can no longer handle the influx of the thousands of South Sudanese entering its border.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday met the visiting South Sudan First Vice President Taban Deng Gai.

According to a statement the president issued on his social media platforms, the meeting among others discussed restoration of peace in South Sudan.

"I call upon all people of South Sudan to refrain from violence.

The only politically viable way is peace and dialogue to achieve development," Museveni wrote.

The meeting came almost a week after Museveni met some of South Sudan’s leaders in opposition.

Apart from the bilateral efforts to restore peace in the world’s youngest nation, there have been regional efforts although they are yet to yield fruits.

Aid workers argue that what is most needed is restoration of peace to stop the influx of refugees in the face of dwindling international funds to support them.


AfDB gives South Sudan US $30 million dollars to support trade and electricity

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The African Development Bank (AfDB) has provided over 30 million U.S dollars to support South Sudan’s membership in the African trade, insurance and development body and also strengthen electricity distribution networks.

AfDB said in a statement on Thursday evening it has approved 18.15 million U.S. dollars to Juba to help with required resources to support its membership in the African Trade Insurance (ATI) and Trade and Development Bank (TDB).

AfDB also approved a supplementary loan of 14.57 million dollars to rehabilitate and expand the electricity distribution networks in the South Sudanese capital Juba.

TDB’s major mandate includes financing and fostering trade, socio-economic development and regional economic integration across a broad range of products and services, across both the private and public sectors, including debt, equity and quasi-equity as well as guarantees.

The ATI provides medium to long term credit and political risk insurance, as well as other risk mitigation products to its member countries and related public and private sector actors.

AfDB said the facility is a critical step and a prerequisite for the respective institutions to commence their operations within South Sudan.

It added that the funding is geared towards building institutions and improving resilience and livelihoods for the South Sudan population by addressing not only the humanitarian crisis and strengthening institutional capacity but also facilitating private sector investments in a fragile environment.

"It is anticipated that joining the TDB and ATI will help South Sudan leverage the limited resources available to the country by mobilizing additional significant resources that can be invested in the importation of essential goods (such as medicines, foodstuff, communication equipment, spare parts among others), the rehabilitation of basic infrastructure and the strengthening of the productive sector of the country," AfDB said.

Regarding the 14.57-million-dollar supplementary loan, the bank said the power distribution system rehabilitation and expansion would strengthen the distribution networks in Juba to provide reliable electricity supply from existing and future generation facilities and also satisfy the suppressed load and demand growth in the city.

The project consists of the construction of 145 km of 33 kV lines and another 370 km of 415/230 volt lines.

AfDB said the funds will be used for purchase and installation of 195 transformer stations, as well as 20,000 prepaid meters for connecting 20,000 new customers.

It added that the project is part of the Bank’s High 5s for Powering and Lighting up Africa as it will increase the electrification rate in the south Sudan, both for residential and commercial use.

WFP condemns killing of three workers in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The World Food Programme (WFP) on Friday condemned the killing of three workers contracted as porters by its office in South Sudan’s Wau during violence earlier this week.

WFP said in statement that it learned of the death of three men, all citizens of South Sudan, on Thursday from the company that employed them, which is contracted by WFP to provide loading and unloading services at the Wau warehouse.

"We are outraged and heartbroken by the deaths of our colleagues, who worked every day to help provide life-saving food to millions of their fellow countrymen," WFP Country Director Joyce Luma said.

The UN agency said the three citizens of South Sudan appeared to have been killed on Monday as they tried to make their way to a WFP warehouse.

It added that two died of machete wounds and the third was shot dead.

South Sudan has been embroiled in more than three years of conflict since December, 2013.

According to the UN, the conflict has made the East African nation one of the hostile environments for aid workers to operate as at least 79 aid workers have been killed since the civil war began.

Last month, gunmen ambushed and killed six aid workers on a road linking the capital Juba to Pibor in Boma State last month.

The UN estimates that 1.5 million people have been forced into neighboring countries and another 7.5 million people across the country are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, and a localized famine was declared in February in parts of northern unity state.


South Sudan rebels say 14 civilians killed in Raga town

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- South Sudan’s rebel group of SPLA-IO said on Sunday that at least 14 civilians were killed during the fighting between their forces and government troops in the western town of Raga.

SPLA-IO Deputy Spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told Xinhua that the government troops attacked Raga town on Saturday morning, killing at least 10 civilians they accused of being sympathizers of the opposition.

Gabriel said four other civilians died in crossfire, adding that the death toll could be higher after government forces retook Raga town.

"The government forces launched air and ground attacks on Raga town after we captured it on Friday.

"Four civilians were killed in crossfire and ten others were killed by government troops who accused them of being our supporters.

"These are the ones we counted but the number would be more," Lam said.

The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) urged the country’s warring parties to show restraint and commit themselves to respect international humanitarian laws and protect civilians in conflict.

South Sudan plunged into civil war in December 2013, leading to deaths of tens of thousands of people and displacement of 1.5 million others into neighboring countries.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 under international pressure from the UN and regional blocs has failed to end the violence as it was shattered in July 2016 after fresh fighting erupted between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

UN calls for probe into killing of three aid workers in South Sudan

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN top relief official in South Sudan on Saturday condemned horrific killing of there aid workers in the country’s second largest town of Wau and called for urgent investigations.

The Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Eugene Owusu said the killing of the aid workers involved in the delivery of vital food aid in Wau comes less than one week after he called for an end to all attacks against aid workers in South Sudan.

"I am appalled by this abhorrent act and demand an urgent investigation to identify those who are responsible and bring them to account," Owusu said in a statement issued in Juba.

The three porters were killed while making their way to a World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in the midst of security operations in Wau town on April 10.

The deaths bring the number of aid workers killed in South Sudan to 82 with 14 aid workers having already been killed in 2017, compared to 24 in all of 2016.

"There are no words left to explain the level of frustration and outrage I feel regarding the continued attacks against humanitarians in South Sudan who are simply trying to help the civilians who are suffering as a result of this conflict," Owusu said.

"I join WFP in sending my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the three brave men who lost their lives this week in the service of the vulnerable people in this country."

The escalation of violence follows recent fighting in Pajok (near the border with Uganda) that caused 6,000 to flee across the border as well as in Wau that displaced many civilians and also claimed the lives of three workers contracted by the WFP.

According to UN, some 60 humanitarian workers have had to relocate from multiple locations in Jonglei between Friday and Saturday, including Waat and Walgak, due to intensified conflict in the area.

Early indications are that the civilian population is also fleeing, though the number of people displaced has been unable to be verified due to the highly fluid situation.

Owusu called on the parties to the conflict to uphold their responsibilities under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and ensure the proportionality of their actions.

"I am deeply disappointed that, despite the assurances that we have received and the commitments that have been made, humanitarians are again having to relocate, and civilians again being uprooted, in an area where needs were already high," he said.

The killings come as humanitarian needs continue to rise, while the operating environment is becoming increasingly dangerous and difficult. In March alone, 79 humanitarian access incidents were reported.

UN urges restraint as South Sudan violence escalates

by Julius Gale JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan UNMISS Saturday called on the warring parties to show restraint amid escalating violence in the conflict-ridden country.

Moustapha Soumare, Acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, called for ceasefire and urged the parties to commit to their responsibility towards protecting civilians from conflict.

"During this holy celebration of Easter, which for many symbolizes reconciliation and the rebirth of hope, I call on all parties to prove their commitment to peace," Soumare said in a statement issued in Juba.

"They must show restraint and demonstrate their responsibility to ensure the sanctity of life of all South Sudanese citizens," he added.

UNMISS reported that fresh fighting has broken out between government SPLA and opposition forces in a number of locations including Raga in the west of South Sudan, Waat in Jonglei to the east and in the area of Wunkur and Tonga in the northern Upper Nile region.

It follows recent fighting in Pajok, and a week ago in Wau town and the surrounding area, which led to the displacement of thousands of people and killing of at least 16 civilians.

UNMISS said it continues to push for access to areas affected by the conflict despite challenges encountered in reaching some parts of the country, and also deployed a number of peacekeeping patrols to deter violence and protect civilians.

The UN mission added that it is also monitoring any human rights abuses as a part of its mandate.

UNMISS said it received some 13,500 people who fled their homes due to the violence, which brings the number of internally displaced persons seeking protection at the site adjacent to its base in Wau to 38,746.

"The warring parties must know that there can only be peace through a political solution," Soumare said.

"They must once and for all silence the guns, return to dialogue, reconcile their differences and bring the peace the South Sudanese people want and deserve," he added.

South Sudan has been devastated by civil war that broke out in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup.

Machar denied the accusation but then mobilized a rebel force. A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government, but was again shattered by fresh violence in July, 2016.

South Sudan slams 'genocide' remarks by British official

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- The South Sudanese government on Friday denied that there is genocide taking place in the country.

The denial followed remarks by the Britain Secretary for International Development Priti Patel, who said Wednesday that tribal genocide is taking place in the war-torn country.

President Salva Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told Xinhua that the government can not commit genocide against its people and called those talking of genocide as liars.

"I can only feel sorry for her (Patel), the government can not commit, implement genocide against South Sudanese.

|The state apparatus can not be used against a particular tribe," he said.

"South Sudanese can never commit genocide.

|There is no genocide and it will never be there," Ateny added.

The government troops (SPLA) have been accused of targeting civilians in the restive Yei town southwest of the capital, and last year the UN Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng said genocide was likely to occur after visiting the border town.

Ateny also dismissed claims by the British official that African countries needed to intervene to calm the South Sudan violence rather than wait for the international community.

"It is another misconception, the South Sudan case has already been handled by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and there is no need for another option," Ateny said.

The war-torn country recently accepted to the deployment of the much-awaited African peacekeeping protection force that will help to separate the warring factions and protect civilians.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013, as political disputes between President Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar caused fighting to spread along ethnic lines between Kiir’s Dinka ethnic group and Machar’s Nuer.

The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million from their homes.

Both the SPLA and militia groups fighting in Yei, Kajokeji areas of Equatoria region, have been accused of carrying out ethnic targeted killings on civilians, hence forcing thousands to flee violence.


Uganda Open Refugee policy needs much more global support

At least 16 killed during fresh fighting in Wau towns South Sudan

President Salva Kiir appeals for aid amid famine fund raising drive




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