Students, refugees stranded at Nimule as Uganda closes border

By Manyuon Mayen Manyuon

South Sudanese who are mainly students and refugees are stranded at Nimule border days after Ugandan authorities imposed maximum lockdown of their border with South Sudan over COVID-19 fear.

After confirming one case of the coronavirus, the Ugandan government on Saturday locked down her border with South Sudan and other countries in an effort to fight deadly pandemic escalating across the globe.

South Sudan’s students who arrived from Uganda after their schools were closed had been disadvantaged by the border closure as Ugandan authorities couldn’t allow them to cross to Nimule but were later allowed to cross yesterday, an official at the Nimule border told Juba Monitor.

Students and refugees who mainly originated from Nimule but needed to return to the refugees’ settlements in Uganda were still being blocked from crossing to the Ugandan side as of yesterday.

“It is not easy to confirm the students’ statistic unless you have a list of them but I can admit that there are so many students who are stranded. I just came from their stranded point while ago,” an immigration officer who chose to remain anonymous told Juba Monitor on phone yesterday.

He said the number of students was difficult to be estimated but said it was overwhelming.

He admitted that the life of the vulnerable people was dire at the border given his experience after border’s closure for the last two days.  

“The people are really suffering. There are too many women with children. South Sudanese who wished to cross the border especially those ones who are supposed to go to the camps were denied entrance. Our refugees who wanted to go and get their food rations at the camp are being refused entrance,” the officer said.

Chol Jok, one of the affected citizens who was about to travel to nearby camp in Adjumani revealed that they have been at Nimule border for the last two days.

“These people are still blocking the way for people’s movement. They only allow the trucks to move. So it is really difficult for us who are moving with children to go and receive our ratios at the camp as it is time for feeding distribution,” he said.

According to him, the lives of the citizens would continue to deteriorate if the situation continues without changes.

James Mayen, one of the students who returned from Uganda said that spending two days in Elegu was characterized by hunger and worry on the possible ways of contacting COVID-19.

“It was difficult, Ugandans just allow their people and we were on the complete lockdown. When we tried to cross using other possible means, we could be traced by police until the full agreement was reached to allow us yesterday,” he narrated.

South Sudan officials at Nimule border said that they could still allow Ugandans coming in since the South Sudan authorities have not yet issued a circular closing the border.   

Dr. James Wani Igga, Vice President of South Sudan had on Sunday said that the government was going to consider reciprocating the decision of Uganda to keep the country free from the virus.

South Sudan and Burundi continue to be virus free among East African countries after Uganda reported its first ever case last Saturday as of yesterday.

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