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South Sudan president downplays refugee crisis, blames social media


President Salva Kiir attends a session during the 25th Extraordinary Summit of the (IGAD) on South Sudan in Addis Ababa March 13, 2014 (Reuters Photo)

August 27, 2017 (JUBA) – South Sudan President Salva Kiir has said the millions of civilians fleeing the war-torn nation were being driven by social media propaganda manned by those conspiring against his government.

“The people who ran to Uganda were chased away by social media. There was no fighting in that area. They were told to leave because they know a UN [United Nations] official came in to assess the humanitarian situation to decide if there was need for assistance,” Kiir told Deutsche Welle on Thursday.

“Instead, he [UN official] went and reported that there was a looming genocide in South Sudan, which has not happened up to now. People were called from their houses and told to run away, that if you don’t go after one hour you would be a dead person,” he added.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 following disputes within the country’s ruling party. Since then, tens of thousands of people have been killed and over 2 million displaced.

The South Sudanese leader, however, said the national dialogue he initiated in December last year will create for those with grievances not addressed in the 2015 peace deal signed by the warring parties.

“In the end, when the resolutions are passed by members of the National Dialogue team, these things could be taken into consideration in the next formations of the government,” said Kiir.

He said the national dialogue, launched in May, embraces all citizens, including his former deputy-turned rebel leader Riek Machar, who currently lives in solitary confinement in South Africa.

“We didn’t really exclude anyone. But for Riek, he knows why. It is not him who is not interested in joining but the whole region does not want him to [join],” said Kiir.

He added, “His [Machar] presence here would create instability in the whole region, not just in South Sudan,”

Kiir downplayed threats posed by the rebel leader, saying regional nations resolved not to allow Machar operate within their territories.

“He [Machar] is not a threat to the government. He is only making confusion calling his supporters on the phone. He knows where they are hiding and these are the people who are still making problems, continuing to fight and do not want to make peace,” he stressed.

OVER I MILLION REFUGEES IN UGANDA

Last week, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said the numbers of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda exceeded one million and called for urgent support.

Majority of the refugees, the agency said, were women and children.

“Over the past 12 months, averages of 1,800 South Sudanese have been arriving in Uganda every day,” UNHCR said in a statement.

“In addition to the million there, a million or even more South Sudanese refugees are being hosted by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic,” it added.

According to the UN agency, however, over 85% of the refugees who have arrived in Uganda are women and children below 18 years.

“Recent arrivals continue to speak of barbaric violence, with armed groups reportedly burning down houses with civilians inside, people being killed in front of family members, sexual assaults of women and girls, and kidnapping of boys for forced conscription,” said UNHCR.

As of refugees arrive, it said, aid delivery is increasingly falling short.

The UN agency said although $674 million is needed for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda this year, so far only a fifth of this amount, or 21%, has so far been received. But although a total of $883.5 million is needed for the South Sudan situation, only $250 million has reportedly been received.

(ST)

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