Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Returnees testify about life in Yei after exile

Grace Senya, 24 years:
Spontaneous returnee from Rhino Camp in Northern Uganda

Grace revealed to SHRA monitors that she is married with three children; her first born is six years old. Unfortunate circumstances forced her to repatriate back to Sudan last year; she had come to attend her brother’s burial but after failing to raise transport back to her settlement camp, she decided to stay. Her family fled the country in 1990 and she has been in Uganda since then. Since she was not entitled to a repatriation package as a spontaneous returnee, she had to eke out a living for herself. She now does odd jobs like carrying water for brick layers - each jerry fetches her 200 Uganda shillings (0.2$). The husband equally does manual work to support the family. He builds for people and burns firewood for charcoal.

Grace’s small family is currently occupying clan land. She says this has been hard for her since her father-in-law has a natural dislike for her. While she is entitled to a small portion of the clan land, where she cultivates, she lacks farming implements. However, by the time SHRA staff were leaving, the Mugwo Payam Administrator, Joseph Sebit Kojiba, had asked her to pass by his office and pick up two hoes.

Peter Bidale:
Returnee from Camp II in Congo under organised repatriation (November 2006)

Peter revealed to SHRA monitors that ever since he returned home, he has been depending on his grandfather for survival. At the time of his arrival, he had three children but one died early this year. He said his repatriation package from the UNHCR included food rations that were anticipated to take him for three months including sorghum, sugar and non-food items like cups, plates, bucket and jerry can. After three months, he ran out of the food rations with barely anything to feed on but was later supplemented with provision for one month as an emergency from the UNHCR.

At the moment, his two surviving children have not started school yet due to lack of school fees. He is now settling on the grandfather’s land in Yei, which is the place he registered with UNHCR, but he is actually from Abukaya village. He confessed that he does not have intentions of going to his original village. Peter cited reasons of not going back as having no idea of his people given the fact that he grew up in exile and that he has heard rumours of people in his village practicing witchcraft. He added that while in his country of asylum, he faced a lot of problems especially at the hands of the Congolese army who used to terrorise the refugees.

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