Bishop Bemoans Mistreatment, Poisoning of South Sudanese Students in Sudan Refugee Camps

South Sudanese refugees in Sudan.
Credit: UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Refugees from South Sudan who have gone to neighboring Sudan in search of better living conditions are being mistreated instead and are being denied wages when they go to work in farms while some are poisoned in their camps, a Catholic Bishop in the host country has told ACI Africa.

In the Thursday, October 1 interview, Bishop Daniel Adwok said that South Sudanese refugees who have tried to reach Sudan during the post independent conflict in their home country have taken enormous risks including abuse at the hands of security agents and dangerous terrain such as forests and flowing waters.

“Many of the refugees in Sudan these days go to work in the agricultural fields, and some come back with nothing to show for their work. They are threatened at gunpoint and denied their wages yet the government does nothing to help,” Bishop Adwok told ACI Africa on the sidelines of a meeting of the Bishops’ Administrative Board in South Sudan’s capital Juba.

The Auxiliary Bishop of Sudan’s Khartoum Archdiocese added, “It is unbearable that the dignity of South Sudanese is being infringed upon by those expected to be protecting them and offering them refuge.”

He observed that many students who come to Kosti refugee camp located south of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, to sit for their Sudan School Certificate have been found to have food poison in their systems.

“The students were rescued in the hospital and it is hard to understand the person who could give contaminated food to youngsters in the examination centres,” the Bishop said and added, “There is hardly any justice for ills perpetrated against a southerner living in the north.”

In any country where justice is observed, poisoning helpless students in their camps while they are preparing for their exams would have attracted a wide condemnation, the South Sudanese-born Bishop said, adding that refugees from South Sudan are forced to endure unwarranted hardships in Sudan for fear of going back to “instability in their home country.”

According to the 67-year-old Bishop who is at the helm of the Pastoral Region of Kosti under Khartoum Archdiocese, anything that is reported about occurrences in the refugee camps is viewed as negative reporting by the security agents in the North and could subject the people in the camps to more suffering.

The 50-year-old Catholic Pastoral Region of Kosti that hosts refugees from South Sudan comprises parishes in the Southern territory of the Archdiocese of Khartoum plus Northern Upper Nile in South Sudan that include areas of Renk, Wed kona and Bunj in Maban.

Prelates in Sudan and South Sudan are all members of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SCBC) and minister to their flocks according to the pastoral needs in their respective countries.

Sudan comprises of the Diocese of El Obeid, the Archdiocese of Khartoum and Kosti Pastoral Region while South Sudan has seven Dioceses that include Malakal, Wau, Rumbek, Tombura-Yambio, Yei, Torit and the Archdiocese of Juba. 

The camps where the mistreatment happens are located about 80km South of Kosti, on the west bank of River Nile towards the border with South Sudan.

There are 12 refugee camps dotting the river bank each holding up to 50,000 people who are living in deplorable conditions within the confines of Sudan’s Diocese of El Obeid, Bishop Adwok told ACI Africa October 1.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]