todayMay 24, 2023

By Godwin Abedican


William Bok a Dinka by tribe, a refugee from South Sudan was on the evening of Monday May 22nd 2023 arrested by the police in Arua city over ferrying children from the refugee settlements and keeping them in city under very terrible conditions. Bok allegedly collected over 40 children from Tika refuge settlement in Rhino camp refugee camp three months ago and has all along been keeping them in Olumini cell, Driwala ward in Ayivu west division, under Arua city.

The actions by the security team together with UNHCR followed a tipoff by the residents of the area citing the poor conditions the children were living under.
During the search, an estimated 45 children were found living in an incomplete building which had no windows, a poorly constructed toilet facility and were sleeping on the floor with very old beddings and mosquito nets.

According to one of the children, they were told they were being brought in order to study in the city but since then they haven’t joined school.
Speaking to the media while at the residence of the children in Olumini cell during the search, Alice Akello the Resident city commissioner Arua, condemned such an action saying, this is an abuse to the children. “Today is yet another day in the lives of children. We are tired of people failing to take care of children. We were tipped about some children staying in very poor conditions. We took the initiative to go there. We found very young children, malnourished, they were all sleeping in one place. One who struggled to speak English told us they had stayed for 4 days without food. They only get up and move around to get maybe one mango and that is what they would survive on for a day,” Akello angrily spoke.

RCC Arua, Alice Akello checks some of the beddings of the children

She says as the head of security, this is a very worrying issue to them given the rising cases of insecurity in the city of late. “I have always told OPM that we have more refugees in the city because most of them just go to pick food and they stay in the city. This is why we are getting insecurity in the city. We are now going to work hand in hand with OPM to make sure those who are registered belong to where they are registered. The city is overwhelmed with people we don’t know. We do not know whether some of these people have run to Uganda with guns, we can’t tell. This is why of late we have a lot of insecurity in the city,” she said. 

Omar Acidri, the LC 1 chairperson of Olumini cell says, as authorities they were not aware of how the children were brought. “I realized when these people had already entered here. What I saw was very unique was their number. They have Forty-five children. What I did was to inform the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in Arua. When I reported, they told me to take them so they can be registered, but then they released that they we registered and questioned why these children were being kept here,” Acidri explained.

He says he shifted the children to anther house which had a better condition but then they decided to get back to the very house where they were got. He says the children have been eating once in a day. He also noted that little is known about the children since they only speak the Dinka language.
Sarah Sokke, the Village Heath Team (VHT) member of Olumini cell, raised concern over the nature of toilet facility the children were using. She says the children always move in groups and since they do not have enough food the children get mangoes and hide such that they keep eating in bits. “The food they are eating is not enough. When the women go to the market, the portion of food they come back with, you wonder how many people are going to eat the food,” she said.     

During interrogation by the security, William Bok the suspect, said, the children are all his relatives and he moved them from the settlement for fear of being attacked in a revenge by the relatives of another South Sudanese whom his uncle killed in South Sudan recently and cultural believes that they cannot share the same source of water and food when there is a conflict between two communities. “I have a genuine reason. I went up to the deputy camp commandant, I raised my issue.

As I am a Dinka, there is a problem where I am coming from. I told them you can even separate me in a different settlement away from my people because there is a reason I came here. They said you can be taken from Tika 4 to Simbili, I really accepted that, I really appreciated that, because there is a problem I fear from our people. After that the technical staff in Ocea could not work on that. They divided my family into three they took my family to Tika, the place I complained of ad said I don’t want to stay in,” he said. “My uncle made a mistake, he killed someone in South Sudan. Then when I came to the camp, I met with so the people, the same tribe the same clan with whom my brother made a mistake. But in our culture, you cannot share things like food with people with whom you have killed a relative of. I placed this to OPM but they could not work on it. I really fear for anything that could happen especially when I leave them there,” he added.

The suspect willaiam Bok was detained at  Onduparaka Police post that evening where he spent the night meanwhile at around 7:30 Pm on the same day, the children set off to  Omugo refugee settlement in Terego district in a UNHCR a bus after the children were handed over to them.

COVER PHOTO: Some of the children on the compound of their residence By Godwin Abedican

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