BY ALEX TAREMWA
Jacob Nhial, 25, is one of the “old” refugees from South Sudan. He now works with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) as a community contact person in the Kativu Cluster.
He arrived in Uganda on December 24, 2013, nine days after the first crisis in Africa’s youngest nation broke out. He had just sat his last Senior Four exam with his dream of joining college and pursuing either Pharmacy or Medicine.
He is now one of the over 100,000 refugees in Rhino Refugee Camp in Arua District scattered across 32 villages.
The number according to camp commandant Armitage Basikania has tripled since 2013 thereby forcing the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness to seek help in form of aid from several national and multi-national organisations.
It is this situation that prompted Rev Simon Feta to lead the students of Bachelor of Governance and International Relations (BGIR) at Uganda Christian University (UCU) to a four-day excursion in the West Nile region.
In an interview with The Standard, Feta who was assisted by Victoria Musasizi said that the trip was meant to not only expose students to potential research areas in governance and international relations but also to lobby for internship places with the OPM and partner organisations.
“We wanted to expose students to the African-Ugandan conflict and the practices in reconciliation, hospitality and international law practice of receiving refugees and displaced populations,” Feta said.
The trip which was mainly student funded also went a long way to give students a definite first-hand experience on exploring the regional and national conflicts, to help them root for solutions from first-hand narratives of those emerging from the conflict.
Three-time refugee speaks
Rev Canon Clement Janda a three-time refugee and former senator in Sudan and South Sudan respectively, spoke emotively about the shortcomings of leadership in African countries. He warned that everyone is a candidate for refugee status should governance systems in Africa not change.
Janda, who first became a refugee in 1963 before joining Bishop Tucker Theological College (BTTC) to study theology, argued that the business of changing constitutions to remain in power is responsible for the refugee crisis not only in Uganda but all over the continent.
“When you have been in power for 30 years, you become afraid of your past hence the way forward is to insist to stay there.
“This kind of business creates conflict and eventually war. So as long you are African, never say you cannot be a refugee. You are a potential refugee,” he told The Standard in an interview.
Besides the refugee camps, the students also visited the Ugandan borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Oraba-South Sudan border in Koboko District, respectively, where they interacted with officers on matters of diplomacy and border politics.