By Philip Buda Ladu
The South Sudan Commission for Refugee Affairs is saying its government has no obligation or legal framework to directly support her people who took refuge in the neighbouring countries.
The Deputy Commissioner for Refugees Affairs in the country, John Dabi made the remarks yesterday after one of the Ugandan media reported that it was time for South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo to support their people in the refugee camps.
Mr. Dabi stressed that there is no binding legal framework for the Government of Uganda to directly demand the South Sudanese government to support its citizens who took refuge as refugees in Uganda.
The Uganda’s Daily Monitor Newspaper last week reported that Ugandan Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugee, Esther Anyakun Davina said it was time for the countries whose citizens have been forced to seek refuge in Uganda to start supporting them across the border.
“South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo must begin to mobilize resources and send to Uganda because it is we who are keeping, feeding and hosting these refugees.” “It is Uganda, doing everything, so those countries must start mobilizing resources and send them to Uganda for the refugee response,” the Minister was quoted by Daily Monitor.
Uganda currently hosts over 1.5 million refugees out of which 964,960 are South Sudanese refugees living in Uganda.
Daily Monitor newspaper had quoted the Minister as saying South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo should mobilize resources to start funding their refugees’ response in Uganda.
Nevertheless, Mr. Dabi told the media that government has not got or seen any official communication on the matter as reported by the Ugandan media house. He said that he cannot challenge Uganda or whoever is saying that because that’s just hearsay, and he will only depend on official communication.
“We have diplomatic relation with Uganda if there is anything of that kind that they need support from the South Sudan Government they will table it through our Embassy and then the Foreign Affairs Ministry and then it will come to us, we will be addressed as the relevant institution which is able to do this support,” Dabi said.
Similarly, the Deputy Commissioner for refugees Affairs in South Sudan said “if a concern for supporting our citizens (refugees) in Uganda arise, it has to come to the government of South Sudan through its Embassy in Uganda; and the Embassy will communicate to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office after which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will bring it to the relevant institutions”.
He said based on the 1951 Convention, as Uganda currently is hosting South Sudanese population of 900,000, Uganda should be the one to protect the population there.
Adding that they should be able to use legal frameworks and policies to support South Sudanese refugees in Uganda until when time comes for repatriation.
“We are not able to work with the Ugandan Government directly on supporting the refugees there, because there are mandates, there are legal frameworks and obligations that we signed and they signed,” Mr. Dabi said.
Dabi said that it is the mandate of United Nations Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), World Food Programme (WFP) and other United Nations humanitarian agencies to support refugees when they are in different countries; support them with the provision of food, health, protection and education.