Congolese refugees fear going home but feel unwelcome in South Sudan
As the military hunt for Joseph Kony continues throughout this region, refugees who fled across the border from Congo to escape his Lord’s Resistance Army say their welcome in South Sudan is wearing thin.
“I want to go home, but I’m afraid of Kony. As soon as the LRA is gone, I’ll go back. It’s my country,” said Bernadet Adesa, 35, who lives in the Makpandu refugee camp near the border.
“This has been a good place for us, but every day there are more and more problems between us and the South Sudanese. If anything bad happens here, we Congolese get blamed for it,” she said.
A Catholic priest who lives in the camp said the refugees are caught between being harassed inside South Sudan or returning to the Congo where the LRA, although weakened, still rampages through the forest, robbing, abducting and killing.
“The Congolese no longer feel welcome here. They live on land that’s not theirs, and their freedom to work and make money has been curtailed,” Italian Comboni Father Mario Benedetti told Catholic News Service.
After 38 years as a missionary in Congo, Father Benedetti accompanied the refugees to South Sudan in 2008. Today his parish is the refugee camp — a ramshackle collection of mud huts 25 miles from Yambio.
Father Benedetti suggests tough economic times are at the root of the tension. South Sudan has been in a crisis since January, when the government in Juba cut off the oil it pumps through pipelines that run through neighboring Sudan. A Sept. 27 agreement between the two governments will restart the oil flow, but it will take months for the situation to improve.
“The Congolese are harder workers than the South Sudanese. They’re better businesspeople. They can make enough money to buy a motorcycle, and the South Sudanese can’t, so they get jealous of the refugees,” the priest said. [More]