Since the end of the Second Sudanese civil war in 2005, movement across the Uganda-South Sudan border has been commonplace, complicating simplistic ideas about return and repatriation. New research among recent refugees from this region shows that these movements still continue, and are now ways in which refugees attempt to assert control over uncertain and unpredictable lives. This post is based on research from the project Deconstructing Notions of Resilience at the LSE Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa. Mobility has become an essential part of life for many South Sudanese over the last several decades, especially since the end of the Second Sudanese War in 2005. Most current South Sudanese refugees today result from the 2013 civil war, which killed hundreds of thousands and displaced nearly four million. In fact, this war was so brutal that by mid-2016, South Sudan was Africa’s greatest refugee crisis and the third largest in the world.
Despite being refugees, South Sudanese in Uganda continue to engage in many movements, both within and across Uganda’s borders. In our recent article published through the Journal of Refugee Studies, we investigate some of the journeys undertaken by refugees now living in Palabek Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda. Based on 12 months fieldwork over 2017-18, our paper argues that these movements are essential ways in which refugees attempt to take some control over their uncertain and unpredictable lives. Further, by setting their journeys within wider personal and regional historical perspectives, our paper shows how the movements of South Sudanese refugees disrupt simplistic ideas about return and repatriation.
Peace, proximity and cross-border mobility Nearly all the South Sudanese we spoke with had been refugees at least once before, some as many as three times. However, despite the violence in South Sudan, many refugees also continued to move back and forth across the South Sudan/Uganda border, as they had done throughout their lives. Their reasons for these border crossings were diverse, reflecting long histories of mobility in this region and showing a range of personal, familial and communal concerns.
Despite this, our findings suggest that a combination of the specific location and demographic composition of Palabek vis-à-vis South Sudan alongside regional variation in South Sudan’s conflict dynamics were the primary factors allowing these journeys to be undertaken. Thus, throughout our fieldwork, and although much of the country was definitely unsafe, one obvious difference between refugees in Palabek and some other refugee receiving locations is that the majority of refugees in Palabek originated from generally safe areas near the Ugandan border. This combination of (relative) peace and proximity meant cross-border mobility was at least possible, if neither predictable nor entirely normal.
Safety, security and the R-ARCSS peace process Security concerns are therefore significant, as many refugees’ movements depended upon the success of R-ARCSS (the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan), South Sudan’s current but fragile peace process. Although several previous attempts to end the war had failed, more positive feelings about the potential of R-ARCSS was shown by the fact that the number of cross-border journeys increased substantially following the signing of R-ARCSS in September 2018. Over the November 2018 to March 2019 dry season, more people than ever returned to South Sudan. They went for longer periods, with some staying for several months in order to prepare land in hope of future cultivation.
Nonetheless, even the most active border crossers remained cautious about the future. This was because of the significant risk attached; as everyone recognised, the peace process was very fragile.
Fear of renewed violence, however, was not the only reason people stayed in Uganda; they were also concerned about losing their refugee status, and the rights and resources this status allowed. Given refugees’ very real fears about how they might be affected by events beyond their immediate control, it is little wonder they were reluctant to give up being a refugee. This is why people told us that permanent return would be at least three and five years away and then only if R-ARCSS continued to hold. Nonetheless, even in this circumstance, nearly everyone said they would maintain their refugee status as long as possible, allowing a return to Palabek should life in South Sudan prove too violent or difficult.
Corruption and its consequences In the six months prior to R-ARCSS, however, cross-border movement had been severely curtailed due to the fallout of a scandal involving the systematic inflation of refugee numbers that rocked the Ugandan refugee industry. In response to this scandal, UNHCR instituted the organisation’s largest ever biometric registration and verification programme between March and September 2018. This sought to quantify the true number of Ugandan-based refugees, reducing the possibility of corruption and theft, and tying the allocation and distribution of all humanitarian assistance to the final outcome.
One result was a series of changes in how food was processed, distributed and accounted for. In Palabek, this meant that from June 2018, camp authorities began insisting refugees could only collect food aid from a single specified point on one particular day per month. As well as an irregularity in distribution days – it could be the start of the month during one cycle but the end or middle during another; food collection was suddenly now only available to persons older than 14 who could provide valid biometric data on a specific day, usually publicised less than a week before delivery began.
Because of these changes, friends, kin or refugee leaders could no longer collect food for absentees, as they had been able to under the previous system. Although more accountable, the new system not only had a negative effect on those who had not correctly registered (most of whom now lost all access to food and other humanitarian services) but also on refugees’ wider movements undertaken across the border and within Uganda, significantly limiting refugees’ legally-entitled freedom of movement.
Class dimensions in Palabek Refugee Settlement As in any community, some refugees in Palabek travel more frequently or for longer periods than others, and these differences demonstrate obvious class dimensions. For Palabek residents before the 2018 biometric verification exercise, especially, cross-border movement was definitely more common among those located at the extremes of the class spectrum and had distinctive class profiles.
On the one hand, while some refugees are involved in international business and have dependable access to vehicular transport and a variety of sought after trade goods, most move out of sheer desperation, their mobility induced by uncertainties around service provision and resource availability; for many of the more marginalised, life in the settlement had simply become too fragile to bear. Generally this was because, despite the prima facie refugee status to which all South Sudanese in Uganda are entitled, for various reasons they had either failed or could not afford the bribe money necessary to officially register as a refugee. Therefore, unable to afford life in the settlement and without any access to food, health services or other humanitarian assistance, desperation drove them back to the uncertainties of South Sudan.
At least until biometric registration stabilised humanitarian assistance from April 2018, a lack of dependable food provision was the single greatest concern of most Palabek refugees. Although regular distribution of food seemed to be an assumed fact by most humanitarian actors, it certainly was not taken for granted by refugees. In fact, missing or delayed food aid was a defining feature of settlement life over 2017-18, and we were repeatedly told it was the single main reason someone would leave the relative safety of Uganda and return to uncertainty and danger in South Sudan. We were shown multiple abandoned compounds whose owners had been among those denied food by humanitarian corruption. Because they could not afford the requested bribes, these refugees had concluded their best chance of survival was to leave the refugee settlement – in which they had no means of obtaining food or health services – and return to try to scrape out a subsistence-agriculture-based life-on-the-edge in a country beset by violence.
Several empirically-based conclusions and recommendations follow from our research:
Firstly, the contemporary cross-border mobilities of Palabek refugees are connected to refugees’ experiences of life in Uganda and the unique location of the settlement vis-a-vis South Sudan. This means:
Mobility patterns found may be somewhat unique and certainly should not be expected to be repeated elsewhere, especially if the basic dimensions of relative peace and proximity are absent. The ways in which refugees speak about and practice returns to and from South Sudan are largely framed through the negative experiences of life in exile. Return movement should not therefore be conflated with voluntary repatriation. Most of those who did repatriate did so because humanitarian corruption made it difficult to access the basic food aid to which they were entitled, not because they specifically wanted to ‘return home’ at that precise moment. Secondly, along with the difficulties of settlement life, other important parameters affecting cross-border mobility were localised development and national peace and security initiatives. This means:
Future repatriation depends on local development as much as peace and, without significant localised rural investment, might ultimately prove unsustainable. The international community remains important to South Sudan’s linked development and peacebuilding efforts. International resources should therefore be directed not only towards the provision of security and high-level political elites, but also towards infrastructure development in poverty-stricken, war-affected rural areas. - Ogeno Charles/Ryan O’Byrne, LSE
UK-based global insurance solutions firm, Linkham Group will acquire a stake in Resolution Insurance after agreeing to purchase 100percent of the equity holding of private equity impact investment firm, Leapfrog Investments, for an undisclosed sum.
The agreement is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approvals in Kenya, and is expected to complete within this quarter.
The Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) of Kenya gave a nod to the parties to progress the transaction to completion in a move that will see Resolution Insurance business immediately gain access to Linkham Group’s financial and insurance networks in Africa and across the globe.
Linkham Group insurance and reinsurance practices focus on providing innovative products relevant to each of their markets.
The investment will give Resolution Insurance customers greater choice, broader availability and better value in a hypercompetitive Kenyan insurance sector at a time when a global health pandemic has put tremendous pressure on health service providers.
Linkham Group, which was founded in 2007 and remains privately owned with operations in South Africa, Mauritius, the UK and Ireland, now finds a foothold into its 3rd market on the continent with the purchase.
Linkham Group Chief Executive Officer Mike Cranfield, said the company, was excited to enter one of Africa’s very developed insurance sectors at a time of unprecedented challenge for businesses and consumers, emphasizing that the entry into a 3rd African market was further evidence of the group’s commitment and investment in Africa and firm belief in the tremendous growth prospects that the continent offers.
“This investment lays the foundations for Resolution Insurance to leverage our global scale, resources, capability and efficiency needed to accelerate its growth and contribute to the economic and social prosperity of Kenyans, insurance service providers, policyholders and the local communities. We will bring our expertise in end to end delivery of insurance solutions to the financial services, airline, broker and card payments sector with leading–edge innovation that will challenge industry norms,” said Cranfield.
“Resolution is an attractive investment because of its unique understanding of the local market as a purely Kenyan business founded by a visionary entrepreneur. We want to compliment his passion by pursuing a focused and sustainable growth strategy through our innovative, consumer-centred localized global solutions”.
Resolution Insurance was founded by businessman Peter Nduati in 2002 as a medical insurance provider in Kenya.
The company changed its name from Resolution Health to Resolution Insurance in 2013 as it expanded into East Africa.
It grew to become a tier two underwriter offering a variety of products from medical plans, travel plans, liability plans, property covers, motor covers and all other classes of general insurance.
“For nearly 20 years, we relied on our local capabilities, heritage and experience to gain the scale, resources and execution capability to operate as a valuable provider of health insurance in Kenya and other East African markets – serving our customers and stakeholders diligently in a sector whose market dynamics continue to be very challenging,” said Resolution Insurance CEO, Peter Nduati.
Nduati said over the past few years, the business environment presented a number of challenges including heightened competition, tight margins, customer affordability challenges and a tough macroeconomic environment and the current Covid-19 global pandemic, all of which put stress on individuals and companies across the board. Capital Business
President Uhuru Kenyatta when he arrived at Gusii stadium on Monday./PSCU
"I am also ready to hold hands with your family so that we can continue from where he left," Uhuru said.
•Addressing mourners on Monday, Uhuru said the stadium will be renamed to Simon Nyachae stadium.
•" We will give an additional Sh150m to the county to complete the stadium before 2022," Uhuru said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has directed that Gusii stadium be renamed after the late Simon Nyachae.
Addressing mourners on Monday, Uhuru said the stadium will be renamed to Simon Nyachae stadium.
"We will give an additional Sh150m to the county to complete the stadium..and to ensure that this stadium is completed by the end of this year and to an international standard," Uhuru said.
In his Eulogy, Uhuru said that Nyachae was a disciplinarian, not only in disciplining others, but the discipline with which he carried himself.
"What he expected of others, is what he expected from himself. What he told us to do, is what he himself did," he said.
Noting that he knew Nyachae since he was young, Uhuru said Nyachae held his hands to who he was.
"I am also ready to hold hands with your family so that we can continue from where he left," Uhuru said.
He further recounted how one of Nyachae's sons - Kenneth- used to beat people whenever he was in trouble.
"Kuna kijana ya Nyachae mmoja, wakati tulikuwa vijana tulikuwa tunatembea huko na huku…anaitwa Ken…siku hizo huyu mtu mkienda pahali mambo iwe moto kidogo anachemka haraka haraka, akishindwa na ya kusema, ngumi zimekunjwa tayari," he said.
In Eulogising Nyachae, DP William Ruto narrated to mourners how he became a victim of late Simeon Nyachae’s beating.
Ruto while eulogising Nyachae as a strict, loving and forgiving father figure, said on several occasions, he found himself on the receiving end.
“We celebrate a great patriotic Kenyan, an administrator and public servant, a brave and courageous politician," he said.
"Despite age differences, we had a relationship and on many occasions, I want to confess that I was a victim of his canning."
Ruto in his sentiments said apart from the physical blows, Nyachae made sure that politically, they walked on the right path.
There was tight security at Gusii Stadium for the final memorial service of the late Nyachae.
General Service Unit personnel were deployed to man all key entrances to the venue are not leaving anything to chance.
The body of Nyachae arrived at his home in Nyosia, Kisii county on Sunday ahead of the burial ceremony today. By Mary Agutu, The Star
Informer East Africa is a UK based diaspora Newspaper. It is a unique platform connecting East Africans at home and abroad through news dissemination. It is a forum to learn together, grow together and get entertained at the same time.
To advertise events or products, get in touch by info [at] informereastafrica [dot] com or call +447957636854. If you have an issue or a story, get in touch with the editor through editor[at] informereastafrica [dot] com or call +447886544135.
We also accept donations from our supporters. Please click on "donate". Your donations will go along way in supporting the newspaper.