Returnees protest over hunger
By Ijoo Bosco Modi
Over 200 returnees from Maji, Uganda, marched to the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (RRC) office in Magwi County to demand basic needs and services.
The group, which includes women, children, and elderly people, said they started their journey at 5 a.m. from Maji, a village about 10 kilometers off Magwi town, to meet the RRC county coordinator and hear from him what the office has in store for them.
The returnees crowded Magwi County headquarters until the RRC coordinator in the county had to come to their audience.
Some of the returnees reported worse living conditions in the camp, such as reduced food rations, difficulty accessing education and health services, and the destruction of crops due to drought.
Speaking to No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper, some of the returnees said the living conditions in the camp were worse.
One returnee, Oboma Joseph Achire from Mahaji refugee settlement, told No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper that he returned to his homeland in July 2023 due poor living conditions.
Mr. Achire promised never to go back to the resettlement camp.
He claimed that there are still some disabled individuals living in the camp, making it difficult for them to obtain food because the drought has destroyed all of the planted crops.
Regina Laker Okun, another returnee, reported a lack of food, shelter, and medicine.
She also mentioned that she planted some crops but was led down by a prolonged drought that dried them all.
Another returnee from the Omijo refugee settlement who declined to give her name reported being restricted from fetching firewood and sometimes getting raped in the bush while in Uganda.
She said she finds it hard to support her children and appealed to humanitarian agencies to intervene.
The chief of Maji, Mr. Washington DC Okwera, called upon the government and NGOs to provide assistance to the returnees who visited the RRC office and those left at home.
Okwera said he started receiving the returnees at the start of the year, but due to the prolonged drought, they lost their crops.
According to him, he received more than three hundred households from Uganda who voluntarily returned in the last seven months, with about 2 to 3 households daily.
Salfa Ben Okeny, the Magwi county coordinator for the RRC, said described his office as being similar to that of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in Uganda.
However, he welcomed the complaints, and his office will forward them where he can.
He appreciated the returnees for raising their complaints peacefully.
The RRC coordinator said an emergency meeting will be convened with humanitarian partners to seek intervention.
Mr. Ben cited that any returnee who lasted for one year in South Sudan qualifies as a host community.
He provided five solar power lamps and one box of soap to vulnerable people who visited his office through the directive of the chief.