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Conflict in South Sudan: Refugees seek protection in Uganda and a way home

"We could not wait for our dead bodies to be found first"

(Kampala, 2 April 2014) Nearly a quarter of a million South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries, with Uganda taking the largest number – around 87,000. The International Refugee Rights Initiative's report, Conflict in South Sudan: Refugees seek protection in Uganda and a way home explores the immediate predicament facing these recently arrived refugees, and the longer-term implications for peace and security in South Sudan.

The report draws on interviews with Ugandan officials and refugees reflecting on the cause of their displacement. Those interviewed were adamant that the current crisis was a result of a major failure of governance in the country: “[t]his conflict is about politics. It is about greed for power.” They also talked about ethnicity being instrumentalised and manipulated by those in positions of power in order to create “sides” in a fight for control: “...this conflict is not ethnic. The problem is leadership and democracy.”

These refugees, most of whom had been displaced during the previous war in Sudan, are again living in camps in exile in precarious circumstances. They are afraid for their own security and are lacking adequate healthcare, with the humanitarian crisis growing by the day:  “[w]e had to look for safety as soon as possible and Uganda was the place because we had been here before.” said one refugee woman. The fact that many are not strangers to displacement reinforces the tragedy that is unfolding, creating a terrible sense of déjà vu for those who had returned to South Sudan, full of optimism, leading up to and after independence. 

Read the full report here.

 

Just Justice: Civil society, international justice and the search for accountability in Africa

A paper series developed by the International Refugee Rights Initiative in collaboration with local partners in Africa reflecting local perspectives on experiences with international justice. The series is designed to more fully explore perceptions of international justice and the social, political and legal impact of its mechanisms at the local level. It is aimed at opening up a dialogue about the successes and failures of the international justice experiment in Africa and the development of recommendations for a more productive and effective engagement going forward.

The papers in the series are:

Steps Towards Justice, Frustrated Hopes: Reflecting on the Impact of the ICC in Ituri, paper no. 2, March 2012. Lisez la version francaise.

A Poisoned Chalice? Local civil society and the International Criminal Court's engagement in Uganda, paper no. 1, January 2012. Lisez la version francaise.

Just Justice: Civil society, international justice and the search for accountability in Africa, Introductory note to the paper series, January 2012. Lisez la version francaise.


 

In Ituri, Katanga Verdict Viewed as a Limited Success

On Friday, March 7, 2014, Trial Chamber II at the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted, by a majority, Germain Katanga as an accessory to four war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property, and pillaging) and one crime against humanity (murder). While some welcomed the verdict, reactions to the decision focused as much on what had not been done, as what had. In particular, questions were raised about the failure of the prosecution to prove charges of recruitment and use of child soldiers, rape, and sexual slavery. Questions were also raised about the fact that Katanga was found guilty when his former co-accused, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, was acquitted, especially in the context of the judges’ last minute re-characterization of the mode of liability. Furthermore, Iturians are concerned about what the decision will mean in terms of the further search for accountability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and with regard to reparations.

Welcoming the Verdict

Some applauded the verdict. For example, Eloi Urwodhi Uciba, national coordinator of the DRC League for Peace, Human Rights and Justice said, “We welcome this second guilty verdict issued by the ICC as it brings hope of reparations to victims. The decision comes at the right time for the people of Ituri, as well as for all the affected communities in Irumu, Bunia, and the surrounding area, which unfortunately are still plagued by violence.” The Réseau National des ONGs des Droits de l’Homme de la République Démocratique du Congo (RENADHOC) “welcomed with satisfaction the conviction of 7 March.”

Likewise Justice Plus, a local NGO in Bunia, was quoted by Radio Okapi as welcoming the verdict and saying that they “wished that the sentence would be as heavy as possible.” On behalf of a network of human rights activists, Maitre Uzele declared on a local station, Merveille, that “what is important is that justice was done for the victims.” He went on to say that this was an important step against impunity, even though many other perpetrators remain at large.

Read more.


Why do we continually misunderstand conflict in Africa?

Lucy Hovil
February 10, 2014

Violence in Africa seems particularly prone to the scourge of one-dimensional descriptions. Often described as ethnic or tribal, and sometimes as sectarian, the media prescribes an adjective that quickly becomes accepted as gospel and this explanation is then hard to shift. Thus we are told that the recent outbreak of violence in South Sudan is ethnic (Nuer against Dinka); and fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) is sectarian (Christians against Muslims). It is seldom described in political terms.

Read the full article here.