Thursday January 9 2014

Settle all refugees in camps

The Daily Monitor yesterday reported that South Sudanese fleeing war in their country to Uganda have been found with hundreds of bullets and army uniforms. It is important that all refugees are accommodated in controlled zones where the question of refugees moving around the countryside in search of private accommodation and ways and means of living may cause unwarranted concern and possible conflicts between them and the local communities. Besides, that would not be an acceptable option or a safe and secure method of resettlement.

It is not that the refugees are not welcomed for temporary stay in West Nile sub-region, but that their presence has to be well organised, well documented; they should be thoroughly searched for the security and safety of both refugee members and local communities.

Camp accommodation is the most suitable place for the purposes of efficient and sustainable management of refugee communities. This will ensure that incidents of conflicts can be avoided in advance by ensuring well monitored refugee movements outside such settlements.

The people of West Nile sub-region should be left uninterrupted from their day-to- day lives by the influx and movement of refugee communities. Life is tough and unbearable for some poor local communities as it is and it would be quite unfair and uncalled for, if they are forced to bear the social as well as the economic burden of the presence of large populations of refugees settling freely anywhere they want.

All those involved in the process of current refugee settlements must do so with a clear knowledge and understanding that such large human settlements have to be compliant with all environmental considerations and regulations to ensure proper use and protection of the natural environment, within and around such settlements. This should not be misunderstood.

We must bear in mind that hundreds of woodland was lost to abuse by previous refugee settlements in many districts in the sub-region. The most affected were Adjumani, Moyo, Yumbe, Koboko and Maracha districts, many of which have hardly started to recover from massive tree and general vegetation cover losses. This has a detrimental impact on communities.

Lastly, as soon as there is an established political /public order and peace in South Sudan, all refugees have to be fully repatriated back to their homes, with dignity and respect. To me, this is a fair justice to refugee communities and the local communities. We all have human needs and we all have the right to pursue justice, peace and happiness.

Wilson Abinikua