Sarah Vancluysen
Discussion paper 2021.05

This paper explores the nature of the relationship between South Sudanese refugees and their Ugandan hosts. Situated in northern Uganda, a context characterized by chronic underdevelopment and poverty, it examines if and how peaceful coexistence between nationals and refugees is maintained. Overall, their relationship can be described as ‘cordial’. However, based on extensive fieldwork, including interviews with refugees, local leaders and settlement authorities, three critical challenges are identified. Most importantly, the management of land currently is and will remain a critical challenge. While unstable conditions in South Sudan do not yet allow a safe and voluntary repatriation, other barriers are impeding the South Sudanese to fully integrate with their Ugandan hosts. More specifically, the rural settlement approach discourages refugees to settle independently; and legal ambiguities refrain refugees from obtaining citizenship. Nonetheless, there is a relatively high degree of de facto integration, as the refugees, supported by Ugandan nationals, come up with their own coping strategies.