Accounts Of South Sudanese Refugees In DRC Camps

South Sudanese refugees in Yei River State who fled into the Democratic Republic of Congo at the peak of the conflict in 2016, are calling South Sudanese leaders to stop the war and restore peace so that they can return to the country.

 Accounts Of South Sudanese Refugees In DRC Camps
Lasu Payam returnees sitting under a mango tree [Gurtong photo|Daniel Friday]

By Daniel Friday Martin

YEI, 27April 2018 [Gurtong]- The refugees say they are undergoing harsh living conditions resulting into massive deaths nearly on daily basis.

Gurtong’s Daniel Friday Martin recently visited Lasu Payam, a South Sudanese satellite town located 22 miles West of Yei town at the South Sudan-Congo border and caught up with some South Sudanese refugees who returned to the area and shared some of the challenges they are facing in the Congolese refugee settlement camps.

60 years old Monika Dure a South Sudanese refugee in Aba settlement camp says children and the elderly were forced to eat papers and soil and eventually die due to hunger.

Monica says they were not given food by the UN refugee agencies but instead given little cash to purchase food ratios from the local host communities which she says many could not afford due to high market prices.

Monica says due to lack of food assistance from the UN agencies; many South Sudanese are dying almost every day in the refugee camps. She is appealing to the leaders in South Sudan to stop the war, restore peace so that those suffering like her in the Congolese refugee camps can return home.

 “Women and children are suffering. People are dying because there is no food. Just recently children ate papers containing toxic chemicals and died and also an aged man ate soil and also died. We have lost many South Sudanese in Congo, the people who died could be counted in terms of hectors, is this war really good for us? We are calling on the government to think about our suffering in Congo” said Monica.

She says many South Sudanese School going children in the camp cannot go to school because the Congolese government requires that the refugees study in French, a policy South Sudanese refugee parents will not accept.

She says majority of the South Sudanese teenage girls end up getting married at an early age while young boys were forced into drug abuse and early marriages as well.

Martin Lokudu Luate is another 69 year old South Sudanese refugee. He says he lost all his properties as a result of the war. He says his family fled to neighboring Congo due to mistreatment from both the government and opposition armed forces.

Lokudu also stressed that the living conditions inside the refugee camps in Congo are worse compared to other countries hosting South Sudanese refugees.

Lukudu says he too is fed up with the ongoing deaths due to acute shortage of food and medical services in the refugee camp.

 “It’s true that many of us ran to Congo. If you go to the camp in Congo, there are three hectors of people buried in the camp and compare it to Luzira cemetery in Yei town. It’s not a lie because I have been here in the camp. I don’t feel like hearing that somebody is dead again, these are not chicken dying they are real human beings dying because of this war. We want peace so that we can go to Yei town to buy food for ourselves some salt, soap and new clothes in the market” said a frustrated Lukudu.

Another South Sudanese refugee, Joice Anite Emmanuel says many of her fellow women were forced to fetch water for domestic use as far as five miles in the camp.  

Anite says she wants to go back to settle in her old area in Lasu Payam once peace returns to the country.

“We are suffering; there is no water in the place where we stay. We could walk for about five miles to fetch water from the wells and running streams. In this place during the dry season all the wells could dry up and we were forced to drink muddy water and I cried because we are subjected to this suffering because of the war. If look at the skins of many people here, many of us are suffering from scabies because of dirty water.  We are calling for peace; we don’t want to hear the barrel of guns because we want to go back to our old places and drink clean water in Lasu Payam.”  

Daniel Lokoroto Arama is an area member of parliament representing Lasu Payam in the State legislative assembly. Lokoroto told Gurtong that nearly all the inhabitants left Lasu Payam due to rampant killings and torture by both parties to the conflict.

Lokoroto is calling on the opposition forces loyal to Riak Marchar to denounce violence, embrace peace to end the suffering of the civil population in the area.

 “I am appealing to my brothers and sisters who have taken up arms against the Government to embrace peace, let our civil population be given their right to peace to settle, cultivate and participate in the development of this country. A place that is that is agriculturally productive is already bushy simply because of insecurity that is caused by own selves. The insecurity that is happening now is affecting our civil population and our children who are no longer accessing education and without education, our future will be darkened.”

For his part, Yei River State Governor Emmanuel Adil Anthony apologized for the suffering the South Sudanese who fled the State into the Democratic Republic of Congo are facing  as a result of the conflict.  

Adil says his tenure in office will ensure restoration of peace, stability and protection of the civil population in order to pave way for reconciliation and safe return of the civilians who fled to DR Congo and Uganda.

 “I am sorry for what has happened, since I came as the sState Governor, I have declared peace, I did not come to fight with the opposition because I have come for peace. We have agreed together with the soldiers not to fight but they are here for protection and I want people to return home, let’s forgive ourselves and look forward for a better future of Yei River State,” said the Governor.

Gurtong could not independently reach the UN humanitarian organizations on the ground to comment on the matter.

The UN estimates that hundreds of South Sudanese have been killed and thousands others fled South Sudan’s deadly violence in search for safety in neighboring Uganda and DR Congo.


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