At refugee summit, UN chief urges ‘solidarity’ with Uganda

June 23, 2017 2:37 pm
There are nearly a million South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, more than a quarter of whom are living in Bidibidi settlement, which is now the biggest refugee camp in the world © AFP/File / Isaac Kasamani

, KAMPALA, Uganda, Jun 23 – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for international solidarity with Uganda at a fundraising summit to help the country deal with nearly a million South Sudanese fleeing war.

Held in Entebbe, Uganda, the summit hopes to raise at least $2 billion (1.8 billion euros) to help tackle the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis triggered by continuing civil war in South Sudan.

Guterres said Uganda’s “exemplary refugee policy” stood out in a world where many countries are turning their backs on foreigners in need.

On Thursday, he visited refugee camps in northern Uganda, close to the South Sudan border, which have popped up over the last year, quickly becoming the largest in the world.

Speaking to delegates, Guterres said the refugees were not living in camps but in settlements which were more like proper villages.

“They are allowed to farm the land, allowed to build the same schools, the same hospitals, the same health centres, to get jobs, to have a noble life, to live in dignity,” the UN chief said.

“It is necessary for the international community to recognise that Uganda has had an exemplary refugee policy in the past.

“And even today, faced with the largest refugee inflow, Uganda remains a symbol of the integrity of the refugee protection regime that unfortunately is not being respected everywhere in the world,” he said.

– 947,000 S.Sudanese in Uganda –

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, seen here with Ugandan premier Ruhakana Rugunda, has praised Kampala’s refugee policy as “exemplary” © AFP / MICHAEL O’HAGAN

On Friday, European nations pledged 125 million euros on top of 85 million euros pledged by the EU on Thursday, but summit organisers say $8 billion — or 7.2 billion euros — is needed to deal with the crisis for the coming four years.

Appealing for funds, Guterres said international solidarity with Uganda was “not a matter of generosity, it is a matter of justice.”

According to the UN refugee agency more than 947,000 South Sudanese refugees are sheltering in Uganda, bringing the total number of refugees in the east African nation to more than 1.2 million.

South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, achieved independence in 2011.

Civil war broke out in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his rival and former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.

In August 2015, a peace deal was signed but it collapsed in July last year when fighting broke out in Juba, spreading violence across the country.

It was this fighting that led to the biggest exodus, with some 743,000 South Sudanese arriving in Uganda since July 2016 — or about 2,000 a day.

There were already some 200,000 living in Uganda due to the initial outbreak of fighting in 2013, with the latest influx pushing the overall number close to a million.

Appealing for funds, the UN chief said solidarity with Uganda in the face of the refugee crisis was not a matter of generosity but “of justice” © AFP/File / ISAAC KASAMANI

More than 270,000 of them are housed in Bidibidi settlement, which overtook Kenya’s Dadaab earlier this year as the biggest refugee camp in the world.

The UN estimates that another 500,000 South Sudanese will arrive in Uganda this year.

The summit will not include discussions on how to end the ongoing fighting, but Guterres insisted that the violence stop.

“Everything must be done to end the war in South Sudan,” he said.


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