IRC Helps Sudanese Refugees Return Home from Uganda
Repatriation became a possibility in 2005, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, ending Africa’s longest-running civil war.
Many Sudanese who fled into northern Uganda in the late 1980s and early 1990s found themselves in the middle of Uganda’s own civil war between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Like millions of Ugandans, the Sudanese were displaced by the conflict; by the time the population of 10,000 Sudanese arrived in Ikafe, a dry, dusty region in the far northwest of Uganda, they had been already been forced to move twice.
In addition to serving over 25,000 people in the Ikafe and Kiryandongo refugee settlements, 10,000 members of the host communities have benefited from health centers, schools and other services implemented by the IRC. The IRC is working hard to ensure that the standard of the services does not deteriorate once the refugees go home, said IRC’s field coordinator Charles Ssketawa.
“In every sector in which we work, we are training local government employees to take our place,” he said. “In some cases, former IRC employees are now doing the same job they did for the IRC, but are being paid by the local government.”
Having established themselves in Uganda and being unsure of what would be awaiting them in Southern Sudan, many of the refugees were initially wary about returning. But late in 2007, after having seen the first few convoys successfully repatriate, excitement about returning to Sudan spread quickly throughout the two settlements. Now, nearly 10,000 refugees have registered to repatriate.
“We have a lot of work ahead to make sure that those still in Uganda are provided for and that we help those who want to go home to do so with dignity,” said Ssketawa.
Meanwhile in Southern Sudan, the IRC and other aid groups are making sure that health, education and other services are available for the returnees.