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UN: 1 Million South Sudan Refugees Now in Uganda

KAMPALA, UGANDA — 

The number of South Sudanese refugees sheltering in Uganda has reached 1 million, the United Nations said Thursday, a grim milestone for what has become the world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.

Ugandan officials say they are overwhelmed by the flow of people fleeing South Sudan’s civil war, and the U.N. refugee agency urges the international community to donate more for humanitarian assistance.

An average of 1,800 South Sudanese citizens have been arriving daily in Uganda in the past 12 months, the UNHCR said in a statement. Another 1 million or more South Sudanese are sheltering in Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Congo and Central African Republic.

The number of people fleeing jumped after fighting again erupted in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, in July 2016.

Thousands arrive daily

“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,” the statement said.

“With refugees still arriving in the thousands, the amount of aid we are able to deliver is increasingly falling short.”

A fundraising summit hosted by Uganda in June raised only a fraction of the $2 billion that Ugandan officials have said is needed to sufficiently look after the refugees and the communities hosting them.

“This unhappy 1 million milestone must serve as a wake-up call to the international community that much more is needed from them,” Sarah Jackson, an Amnesty International official in the region, said in a statement Thursday. “With no resolution to the conflict in South Sudan in sight, refugees will continue to flee to Uganda and the humanitarian crisis will only escalate.”

Most of the refugees are women and children fleeing violence, often along ethnic lines, since the world’s newest country erupted into violence in December 2013.

Uganda under strain

Ugandan refugee officials have repeatedly warned that the influx is straining the country’s ability to be generous to the refugees, who often are given small plots of land for building temporary shelters and planting crops when they arrive.

The largest of the settlements hosting refugees from South Sudan, Bidi Bidi, is roughly 230 square kilometers (88.8 sq. miles).

The World Food Program cut food rations for some refugees amid funding shortages in June.

The U.N. says at least $674 million is needed to support South Sudanese refugees in Uganda this year, although only a fifth of that amount has been received.

The money is needed to provide basic services, including stocking clinics with medicines and putting up schools. Aid agencies say classroom sizes in the few available schools often exceed 200 pupils, and other children have dropped out because the nearest schools are miles away.

Basic services suffering

“The funding shortfall in Uganda is now significantly impacting the abilities to deliver life-saving aid and key basic services,” the UNHCR statement said.

Fighting persists in parts of South Sudan despite multiple cease-fire agreements. Rebel forces said Tuesday they had reclaimed their stronghold of Pagak in the northeast, less than a week after being pushed out by government forces.

Both sides have committed serious rights violations, including murder and rape, against civilians, according to U.N. investigators.

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Swedish soldiers to fend off pirates near Somalia

Thirty-four Swedish soldiers are heading to east Africa as part of international efforts to prevent attacks from Somali pirates. The soldiers, from Gothenburg, will be stationed off the coast of Somalia as part of Sweden’s fifth mission to the region. Two small Swedish combined transport and war ships will be on board the Dutch HNLMS […]

The post Swedish soldiers to fend off pirates near Somalia appeared first on Shabelle.

A Somali National shot dead in Washington, USA

Hussein Hassan, the 46-year-old Muslim refugee from Somalia who was shot dead by police while attacking and trying to behead a uniformed officer Sunday in Kennewick, Washington, had assaulted another cop less than a year before. Hassan bit Kennewick Officer James Canada during a car prowling investigation last October, the Tri-City Herald reports. Canada and […]

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WHO calls for urgent support to combat measles outbreak in Somalia

WHO and its health partners urgently need support in response to a measles outbreak in Somalia, according to a press release. They are currently working with Somalia health authorities to offer essential health services. To improve outbreak response activities and conduct a measles immunization campaign in November, WHO requires $6.8 million. “Somalia is facing one […]

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On the Run from Bullets and Bruises: Ayaan’s Story – News Deeply

I WASN’T BORN yet when I became a refugee for the first time. A man ran into our home while I was still in the womb, to tell my mother that her son had been killed trying to secure food. He warned her to flee to a displaced persons’ camp. My mother refused and was […]

Real Madrid outclass Barcelona for Spanish Super Cup crown – ESPN

Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema scored brilliant first-half goals as Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-0 on the night to register a resounding 5-1 aggregate Spanish Super Cup win. Zinedine Zidane’s side, comfortable 3-1 first-leg winners on Sunday, put Cristiano Ronaldo’s five-game ban behind them by out-playing their arch-rivals again as moments of magic from Asensio […]

Finding Somaliland’s ancient cave art is hard. Protecting it could be harder -Monitor

LAAS GEEL, SOMALILAND—Hidden in the Somali desert, beneath stunning, ancient rock cave paintings, the thin trail of a snake traces a winding line across the dust. A few strands of once-protective barbed wire are pushed to the side; goat tracks abound. Somaliland’s most prized archaeological treasures – which locals fearfully called “the place of the […]

Chibok Girls: Our Abduction Was a Robbery Gone Bad

ABUJA, NIGERIA — 

The mass abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls from Chibok — the biggest publicity coup of Boko Haram’s jihadist insurgency — was the accidental outcome of a botched robbery, say the girls who spent three years in their brutal captivity.

The Chibok girls made the surprise revelation in secret diaries they kept while held prisoner, and a copy of which has been exclusively obtained by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Recalling the night of their kidnapping in April 2014, Naomi Adamu described in the diaries how Boko Haram had not come to the school in Chibok to abduct the girls, but rather to steal machinery for house building.

Unable to find what they were looking for, the militants were unsure what to do with the girls.

Arguments swiftly ensued.

“One boy said they should burn us all, and they (some of the other fighters) said: ‘No, let us take them with us to Sambisa (Boko Haram’s remote forest base) … if we take them to Shekau (the group’s leader), he will know what to do,’” Adamu wrote.

She was one of about 220 girls who were stolen from their school in the northeastern town of Chibok one night in April 2014, a raid that sparked an international outcry and a viral campaign on social media with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

Championed by former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, along with a diverse cast of media celebrities, the campaign won international infamy for Boko Haram and helped galvanize the Nigerian government into negotiating for the girls’ release.

Adamu was among 82 of the Chibok girls released by Boko Haram in May, part of a second wave after 21 of them were freed in October. They are being held in a secret location in Abuja for what the government has called a “restoration process.”

A few others have escaped or been rescued, but about 113 of the girls are believed to be held by the militant group.
The authenticity of the diaries, written by Adamu and her friend Sarah Samuel, cannot be verified as the government negotiates with Boko Haram for more releases.

Clandestine chronicles

The diaries shed light not only on the horrors the girls endured under Boko Haram, but their acts of resistance, and their staunch belief that they would one day go home.

The girls said they started documenting their ordeal a few months after the abduction, when Boko Haram, whose name loosely means ‘Western education is sinful’ in the local Hausa language, gave them exercise books to use during Koranic lessons.

To hide the diaries from their captors, the girls would bury the notebooks in the ground, or carry them in their underwear.

Three of the other Chibok girls also contributed to the undated chronicles, which were written mainly in passable English, with some parts scribbled in less coherent Hausa.

“We wrote it together. When one person got tired, she would give it to another person to continue,” Adamu, 24, said from the state safe house in the capital, where the girls are being kept for assessment, rehabilitation and debriefing by the government.

‘Convert or burn’

Life in the Sambisa involved regular beatings, Koranic lessons, domestic drudgery and pressure to marry and convert.

The girls’ spirits remained intact, as they devised amusing and mocking nicknames for the fighters, the diaries show.

Yet cruelty and brutality were ever present.

When five girls tried to escape, the militants tied them up, dug a hole in the ground, and turned to one of their classmates.

The jihadists handed her a blade and issued a chilling ultimatum: ‘cut off the girls’ heads, or lose your own.’

“We are begging them. We are crying. They said if next we ran away, they are going to cut off our necks,” Adamu wrote.

On another occasion, the militants gathered those girls to douse them in petrol then burn them alive.

“They said: ‘You want to die. You don’t want to be Muslim, (so) we are going to burn you,” read the diary entry.

As fear set in, the militants cracked into laughter — the cans contained nothing but water, the girls wrote.

Fear does their bidding

One of the most striking excerpts illustrates the pervasive fear spread by Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria, where the group has killed 20,000 people and uprooted at least 2 million in a brutal campaign that shows no signs of ending soon.

During their captivity in the Sambisa forest, some of the Chibok girls escaped and ended up in a nearby shop where they asked the owners for help, as well as food and water.

“The girls said: ‘We are those that Boko Haram kidnapped from (the school) in Chibok,’” Adamu wrote. “One of the people (in the shop) said: ‘Are these not Shekau’s children?’” The shop owners let the girls stay the night.

But the next day they took them back to Boko Haram’s base, where the girls were whipped and threatened with decapitation.

Despite being flushed with relief at her own freedom, Adamu worries about her closest friend and co-author, Samuel, who is still with the group, having married one of its militants.

“She got married because of no food, no water,” Adamu said from the government safe house in Abuja.

“Not everybody can survive that kind of thing,” she added. “I feel pained … so pained. I’m still thinking about her.”

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UN: Finding Survivors in Sierra Leone Mudslide Unlikely

A United Nations representative in Sierra Leone said Wednesday he is losing hope that rescuers will find survivors after deadly mudslides in Sierra Leone’s capital killed more than 300 people.Sunil Saigal, the U.N. Resident Coordinator for Sierra Leone…

South Sudan's Parliament Suspends Debate on Budget

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN — 

South Sudan’s parliament have suspended debate on a $451 million budget as questions linger over how government agencies will be financed and how money was spent during the past fiscal year.

Oil production and other sources of revenue for the government have plunged since the start of the war between supporters of President Salva Kiir and opponents in late 2013.

Members of parliament refused to further discuss the 2017-18 budget Monday after most members of the Cabinet failed to appear, making it impossible for MPs to question them.

Speaker Anthony Lino Makana, who called off the discussion, demanded that all ministers be present during the next session.

Last month, Finance Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau presented an annual budget, but after further review, the parliament’s committee on finance proposed adding $141 million to the proposal.

Several lawmakers, including Maridi state’s Mary Nawai, asked why certain agencies were allocated tens of thousands of pounds despite not performing their duties or providing financial reports.

Electricity ministry

Nawai focused on the Ministry of Electricity and Dams, which was found to have overpaid its budget for wages by 49 percent.

“What were the activities that they used the budget for?” she asked. “We have not seen any sign in this country of electricity. What people are using are generators in their houses and solar? … We have not seen any construction going on or any dam. Why do we need to add money for the Ministry of Electricity?”

Economic analyst Marial Awou Yol said government institutions must be disciplined and use national resources for their intended purposes. Otherwise, he said, South Sudan will never recover from its economic crisis.

He said economists have been calling for a single treasury account system in which the Ministry of Finance controls the flow of money. Currently, he said, some government institutions have several banking accounts.

“You don’t know in which account they deposited money,” Awou told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

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