South Sudan hits a sad refugee milestone

Only five years after the country came into being, South Sudan has produced than one million refugees because of civil war.
Refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan cross the border into Uganda on Janaury 6, 2014. As of September 2016, more than one million refugees have fled the civil war in South Sudan. Rebecca Vassie / AP
Refugees fleeing violence in South Sudan cross the border into Uganda on Janaury 6, 2014. As of September 2016, more than one million refugees have fled the civil war in South Sudan. Rebecca Vassie / AP

AWEIL, SOUTH SUDAN // The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, has achieved the least-wanted target. Only five years after the country came into being, South Sudan has produced than one million refugees because of civil war.

The country now joins Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia in a league table of tragedy wrought by internal conflict.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, but civil war erupted two years later and tens of thousands have been killed. The continuing violence has forced more than a million of the estimated 12 million population to flee to neighbouring countries, creating one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. Another 1.6 million South Sudanese are displaced within the country.

“This is a very sad milestone,” said Leo Dobbs, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency. In July alone, new fighting in the capital, Juba, created a surge of more than 185,000 refugees, most of them women and children.

Neighbouring Uganda hosts the highest number of refugees, and 20,000 have arrived in the past week due to clashes in southern South Sudan. Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic also have received tens of thousands of people fleeing. The UN. paid tribute to the receiving countries, themselves among the poorest in the world.

“Many refugees arrive exhausted after days walking in the bush and going without food or water,” said Mr Dobbs. “Many women and girls said they were sexually assaulted during their flight.”

The fighting that erupted in July between supporters of President Salva Kiir and then-Vice President Riek Machar “has shattered hopes for a real breakthrough and triggered new waves of displacement and suffering,” he added.

A peace deal reached a year ago continues to be violated. Vice president Machar fled the country during July’s chaos.

South Sudan has been threatened by the UN security council with an arms embargo if it does not accept 4,000 additional peacekeepers to help protect civilians. The government calls the plan a violation of its sovereignty.

* Associated Press

Published: September 16, 2016 04:00 AM

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