As the war in South Sudan continues, worrying developments continue to emerge. With thousands fleeing for safety to neighbouring countries like Uganda, there are reports of tribal clashes in refugee camps, particularly between the two major ethnic groups of Dinka and Nuer.
The fighting between President Salva Kiir’s government and former vice president Dr Riek Machar reignited the deep-rooted ethnic divisions between Mr Kiir’s Dinka community and rebel leader Machar’s Nuer tribe. Soon after violence broke out in the capital, Juba in December, reports of ethnically targeted extrajudicial killings were reported.
The South Sudanese crossing to countries like Uganda are seeking safety from killing fields. We, therefore, find it deeply disturbing and utterly reprehensible that some wrong elements among the refugees are reigniting the very violence they fled from! Many people fleeing the fighting have shared tragic tales of tribal killings.
It is crucial that the United Nations, the Ugandan government and other humanitarian bodies take keen interest in the Daily Monitor story about tribal clashes between South Sudanese refugees in Elegu camp in Amuru District and those in Dzaipi in Adjumani District.
According to the story, the Dinka and Nuer tribes in the camp are accusing each other of fuelling the ongoing war in South Sudan, and police in the area say the clashes have become a daily routine, with people being attacked and stabbed with knives.
While police and local leaders have embarked on community policing and educating the refugees on co-existence, the situation is fragile and should not be left to local leaders alone. Area leaders have already appealed to the South Sudan Ambassador to Uganda to intervene before the situation flares into a bloodbath. Beyond that, the proposal by Kilak County Member of Parliament Gilbert Olanya that the two tribes, Dinka and Nuer, should be separated should be discussed and considered.
That some refugees were found to have crossed to Uganda with bullets, army uniforms and probably have easy access to other crude implements should compel authorities to act fast and avoid a potentially dangerous flare-up. Precautionary measures must be taken to guarantee the security of refugees and indigenous communities.