Thousands of civilians flee as a result of the increasing insecurity and an escalation in violence.
South Sudan – Once a symbol of peaceful coexistence between South Sudanese from different origins, Central Equatoria, on the southern border of South Sudan has become a scene of a massive exodus of the local population towards neighbouring Uganda.
A group of women and children cross the Ugandan border, heading back to South Sudan with the intention of rescuing their personal belongings from their village that was attacked in the previous day by uniformed soldiers. Refugees report that when the armed soldiers arrive at the villages, they have to run and hide in the bush, leaving all their properties behind. ‘The market, the schools, the hospitals are closed. My village has become a ghost place. All my neighbours have left. Only a few residents can be seen around,’ said Justin T, 32, at Afoji collection point. [Natalia Jidovanu/Al Jazeera]
Thousands of civilians have fled, and continue to flee, the area as a result of increasing insecurity in the region, due to an escalation in violence in and around Kajo-Keji between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to the government of President Salva Kiir, and the SPLA-in-Opposition forces loyal to the former First Vice President Riek Machar.
Uganda has seen the rate of new arrivals increasing over the last weeks, with a total of 25,400 South Sudanese refugees being received in Uganda between the February 3 and 9, with an average daily rate of 3,657 new arrivals, bringing the total number of South Sudanese refugees and asylum-seekers in the country to 736,953.
Newly arrived refugees entering Uganda’s northern region report that armed soldiers wearing the uniform of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) are perpetrating systematic and widespread attacks against civilians moving towards Ugandan border, forcing civilians to travel through the bush and to use a number of informal border crossing points in Moyo district.
Refugees crossing the Ugandan border at Lefori and Afoji areas report that thousands of people from different locations are sheltered in several internally displaced persons sites outside Kajo-Keji, while many elderly people remain trapped in their villages, as they cannot make the journey towards the Ugandan border.
UN officials have been warning since last November that ethnic cleansing is under way in the Central Equatoria region and in Yei River State, specifically, and that the conditions are being created for a genocide in South Sudan, with Juba strongly denying such claims.
Source: Al Jazeera Media Network
Thousands of Kajo-Keji and nearby villages residents cross the Ugandan border daily at Afoji and Lefori areas, on foot, by bicycle or motorbike. Northern Uganda has been the main reception area for refugees from South Sudan since the outbreak of the civil war in 2013 and a new surge of fighting in July 2016. [Natalia Jidovanu/Al Jazeera]
Several men cross Kayo stream carrying luggage and furniture on their motorbikes and bicycles. Some families take several days to move their belongings across the border, moving back and forth between their villages and the crossing border points, facing the risk of being attacked while travelling. [Natalia Jidovanu/Al Jazeera]
Some refugees use motorbikes and bicycles to carry luggage, furniture, household items and animals. Refugees crossing at Lefori area reported having seen the bodies of three men who were killed on Bomure-Lefori road and their bodies left by the roadside. One of the men killed, originally from Bomure and known as Abusala, was reportedly shot on Sunday, February 5, by uniformed soldiers, while trying to leave Bomure with his wife, a bicycle and a mattress. His body was still on the road on February 8, his head and hands cut off, as reported by several refugees using Bomure-Lefori road to cross into Uganda. ‘After killing Abusala, they tried to shoot his wife. Fortunately, she was able to run and hide in the bush. They took his money and his bicycle and left the mattress,’ told Jackson, M, 37, from Bomure. [Natalia Jidovanu/Al Jazeera]
A group of refugees wait for their turn to cross Kayo stream in Moyo district, which represents one of the most clearly defined stretches of the border between Uganda and South Sudan. [Natalia Jidovanu/Al Jazeera]