Three years ago, Amos Aligo was a high-flying youth in the South Sudan town of Yei whose life – in his own words – was “so fine that I had a vision of what I wanted to do in years to come.”
The 28-year-old earned a living working as a customer care agent for telecommunications giant MTN South Sudan and, together with his wife Harriet Dawa, was raising their three children.
Then in July 2016, clashes in the capital Juba between rival factions of the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir and his deputy Riek Machar began. They set off a chain of events whose ripple effects forced Aligo to seek refuge in Uganda.
Aligo arrived on the Ugandan side of the border on December 21, 2016, and was resettled at Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement in the West Nile region district of Arua.
Last year, Aligo was allocated two acres of land to farm and, this year, he joined a farmers’ group is now receiving support through a programme supported by the German government and the European Union.
“Life started with a lot of challenges but, currently, I am seeing a bit of change. We are settled and things are moving on fairly well compared to that previous moment when we arrived here,” he said.
Aligo is one of the more than half a million South Sudan nationals who were displaced to Uganda by the on-going conflict in their country, according to statistics released by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees early this year.
Most of the refugees abandon their possessions in their homeland and have to build a new life in a foreign land from scratch, as Anna Apiya, formerly a teacher at Loka Primary School in South Sudan’s Yei district narrates in an interview at Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement.
“When I came here I had nothing. Even when I tried to get a job as a teacher in Uganda, I could not because the system here is different,” said the 30-year-old.
The influx of refugees from South Sudan led to an overall increase in population in settlements such as Rhino in Arua district, well as adjoining areas. This then exerted more pressure on host community resources.
On June 22-23, 2017, Uganda hosted a Solidarity Summit for Refugees, jointly chaired by President Museveni and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in a bit to address the challenges caused by the refugee crisis and to solicit added support for the Uganda government’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF).
“The Summit intended to mobilise financial support for Uganda’s hosting of refugees. This is when Germany and EU decided to support this project,” explains Patrick Poehlmann, the RISE Project Manager for the German development agency, GIZ. “The main objective of the project is to improve the socio-economic development of refugees and local communities in the refugee hosting districts of West Nile,” explains Poehlmann about the four-year initiative that will be implemented in the refugee-hosting districts of Arua, Moyo and Adjumani.
The €20 million (Shs122 billion) project is intended to increase economic self-reliance of a total of 9,000 people, including refugees and host community members, with a particular focus on women and youth. The beneficiaries are supported through income and employment generating activities such as market-oriented skills and entrepreneurial training, traineeships in the private sector, and enhanced agricultural production.
The project, according to Stephen Koma, the Uganda government’s political coordinator for the RISE programme, is implemented in close cooperation with the Ministry of Local Government.
Koma said that if well-managed, the project is likely to have a great impact on the most vulnerable groups in the refugee settlements and host communities such as women and youth.
“If you give those groups skills, it will enhance their livelihoods and they will be able to cater for their basic needs as opposed to the previous arrangement where they depended on hand-outs because there was no intervention,” he said. “They will also be able to employ others so the multiplier effect will give even more people opportunities.
So far, according to Stephen Lemaku, a resident of Akinyau village in Oryema Sub County in Arua district, which is one of the communities adjacent to Rhino Refugee Settlement, a good number of people from his locality have engaged in several preliminary activities organized through RISE.
”They have mobilized the community for sensitization and training activities on farming activities, animal rearing and good agronomic practices,“ said the 24-year-old farmer. ”They also selected groups of 25 members who will benefit from the project. They also recruited community-based trainers.“
by Benon Herbert Oluka