The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has made a strong call for the persistent war in South Sudan to end, challenging the leadership to find a solution to the conflict.
Guterres made the condemnation on his second day in Uganda, while he was visiting Imvepi refugee settlement in Arua, northern Uganda on Thursday.
Accompanied by the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda Ms. Rosa Malango, the UN Chief landed at Inyau Primary School at around 2:42 pm as a delegation of development partners and locals waited.
While responding to questions from the press, Guterres said; “Twelve years ago, I was here in June in this same place with South Sudanese refugees who were singing with joy hoping they would go back home.”
“Years after, I was able to accompany many of them to cross the border to reunite with their families hoping their new country would be at peace,” he went on to say.
He lashed out at the political figures both President Salvar Kiir and Riek Marchar as well as the country whom he said “have not deserved the people they have” as a result of the suffering inflicted by endless war. Gueterres stressed that it was time that the parties in the conflict got the message clearly.
Of the 1.2 million refugees currently hosted in Uganda, over 800,000 came from South Sudan due to the ongoing ethnic war. It is estimated that 700,000 South Sudanese refugees crossed into Uganda since July 2016 with about 2,000 daily arrivals registered. Social workers from World Vision say the majority of the refugees are single parents (women) and children.
“Peace in South Sudan is a must. It’s time for the war to end. It’s time for the leaders in South Sudan to understand that they need to stop this war,” he said.
He hailed the efforts made by regional actors IGAD, Heads of state, African Union and UN for the restoration of peace.
The Secretary General who will Friday attend the Solidarity Summit on Refugees in Munyoyo used his visit to Imvepi refugee camp to appeal for a boost in the diplomatic capacity to end conflicts such as that in the volatile South Sudan that has left 4 million people displaced.
Upon arrival, Guterres had walked to on looking primary school pupils among them refugees and sought from them the conditions they are leaving in. He also asked what had led them to flee South Sudan and what could be done to support them.
“I walked here from Yei (South Sudan) because of war in Yei passing through Congo. I arrived in March this year,” Alex Seme, 28 told the Secretary General.
Seme appreciated the provision of solace and food but pointed out challenges in access to education and medication.
Imvepi refugee camp which government closed a few years back after refugees were repatriated back to South Sudan following a semblance of calm was reopened when war broke out again in the world’s youngest country in 2015.
In the camp where he sat and listened to representatives from the host community, the Secretary General was told of the dire need for health services, schools and water resulting from the pressure exerted by the growing number of refugees.
“I thank you for receiving us and the generosity you have showed to refugees by sharing with them everything you have. Nobody can exceed your generosity,” he said told locals that reside around the camp.
Stressing the need for a more sustainable approach than humanitarian interventions, Gueterres added; “We are aware of the pressures that this generosity is causing. In tomorrow’s summit, we shall ask for support for both refugees and host community not just in the short-term but development support such as infrastructure.”
Prime Minister Rugunda in his remarks lauded UN agencies for the support rendered to government in regard to humanitarian aid, which he said has granted refugees dignified treatment.
“Government is working closely with neighbors under IGAD as well as South Sudan leaders, African Union and UN to get a political solution for South Sudan,” Rugunda said.
The European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides, U.S Ambassador to Uganda Deborah Malac and E.U Ambassador Kristian Schmidt were also among the delegation that visited Imvepi camp on Thursday.