Josef Korbel School of International Studies — University of Denver
Uduk Hope Inc., Graduate Research Assistant
This article is a reaction to an announcement by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on February 10th, 2017, which stated that over 1.5 million refugees have fled South Sudan. Nearly half, an estimated 700,000 of these displaced individuals settled in Uganda, and the UNHCR estimates this will rise to 925,000 by the end of this year. The World Bank estimates that two-thirds of the population now lives in absolute poverty. Despite being the third largest refugee crisis, South Sudan has received only 33 percent of its 2016 funding appeal of $649 million. Mercy Corps has started a cash grant program to assist 15,000 refugees, which will allow economic participation in Bidi Bidi, Uganda. Most refugees are estimated to stay in that area for five years.
Since its independence in 2011, South Sudan has faced many internal conflicts that have impeded peace and stability in the area. December 2013 marked the start to a civil war that has not ended. Major leaders of the country involved in opposing parties are President Salva Kiir, of the majority Dinka tribe, and Vice President Reik Machar of the Nuer, who has since been replaced. In 2015, a peace deal was made that did not last. Human rights abuses have been abundant and grotesque and the UN has warned of genocide, specifically after violence in the capital Juba of 2016. There has largely been a lack of international attention given to this conflict, which has not helped its resolution. In December, a few short months ago, President Kiir called for a national dialogue and will “exhaust all means of getting peace back to Sudan”. Many are unconvinced, and this does not change the current refugee situation.
There are a multitude of implications of the continuing conflict and aid attempts for local South Sudanese refugees. First of all, the nature of the conflict indicates that not only is an end not in clear sight, but that volatility and violence will continue. Individuals may face the toughest decision of their lives: to stay or leave, or they may not have a choice. It is important to know that organizations are giving options such as Mercy Corps’ program, whose goal is to give dignity back to refugees and make them feel autonomous, and support them in their new home. A distinction was made in this article that conflict was not based on a lack of jobs or famine, both related to poverty, but that violence was simply occurring. The need for community within refugee camps is now larger than ever. It is important that both internal and externally-displaced persons are able to bind together to protect their collective dignity as persons on this planet, and also have autonomy and hope. Ideally, new ideas such as public-private economic partnerships to tackle the economic crisis, internal cooperative conversations, and appropriate international assistance are able to slow this crisis and return South Sudan to its feelings of newfound freedom.
Uduk Hope Inc. (UHI) strives to be inclusive and support building community linkages when they have been nearly destroyed. UHI recently gave assistance to a Christmas celebration, not only bringing Christians together, but everyone in Doro was welcome and able to join in celebrating each other and that safety was present at that time.