Uganda: Adjumani project closed down after 16 years
14 December 2008

The staff of JRS-Adjumani gather with Eastern Africa Regional Director Fr. Frido Pfleuger SJ during the closing ceremony of the project. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
“We are left strong as JRS leaves. JRS has empowered us economically, intellectually and spiritually."
Adjumani, 14 December 2008 In 1992, just after the Eastern African region had been founded, JRS started working with southern Sudanese refugees setting up its first project in Adjumani, northern Uganda in 1993. This project became the “mother” of many others in the region that followed soon. After 16 years of serving Sudanese refugees and the local community in the area of Adjumani and Moyo, JRS East Africa officially closed down the project on December 14, 2008.

Closing celebrations started with a Mass on Sunday morning, celebrated by Regional Director Fr. Frido Pflueger who thanked the local community for the way they welcomed the Sudanese refugees: “You have given one of the best examples of how refugees can be received,” he said pointing out that in many countries this rarely happens.

Adjumani stronger because of JRS

Speeches during the closure celebration in the afternoon clearly demonstrated that JRS has achieved its objectives and mission in the area. People who were supported by JRS expressed their gratitude and appreciation. Longa Kassim, representative of the refugee community and head teacher at one of the schools said: “We are left strong as JRS leaves. JRS has empowered us economically, intellectually and spiritually. Economically – because  we could build our skills and learned to do something that helps us earn money, intellectually  because the rate of illiteracy has gone down and many of us are now literate and spiritually because the moral values were planted in our hearts and will bear fruit when we build our new communities in Sudan. The peace education provided by JRS has brought harmony to our camps. We assure you that our sons and daughters who were supported by JRS will be the future leaders of tomorrow.”

District and government representatives also underlined their benefit of JRS programmes, admitting that without JRS, the District would not be at the present state. For a long time, the JRS run Alere Secondary School was the best in the District. JRS was appreciated as one of the best development partners. “The impact has been international because refugees and nationals shared the same schools and the capacities they build will help both, Uganda and Sudan,” a representative of the Local Council pointed out. Refugees were explicitly welcomed at any time in the future. 

Rebuilding a country with dignity

JRS Uganda Country Director Sr. Nora McCarthy expressed her gratitude for all that JRS has accomplished during the last 16 years. She pointed out that this would have never been possible without the help of so many people and thanked especially the local community and the refugees: “JRS has been enriched by your culture, hospitality and traditions. We’ve widened our horizons with what you have taught us and I am proud that we had a part in your formation,” she said. Finally Fr. Frido Pflueger encouraged the refugees to keep alive in their communities what JRS has passed on to them and to rebuild a country where people can live in dignity, freedom and peace.

Right from the beginning JRS’ response to the influx of Sudanese refugees  who were fleeing the civil war between the Khartoum government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was a combined programme of education and pastoral care. Over the years JRS has provided education for around 30,000 students per year in over 30 nursery, 40 primary and 5 secondary schools. Tertiary and peace education were also part of the programme. An affirmative action programme supported girls’ education.

Schools handed over to district

Often, programmes were affected by the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which was active in the area until 2006. After the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005 repatriation began slowly in 2006 and finally in 2007 and 2008 huge numbers of refugees returned to their homes, leaving most of the over 50 settlements. While in 2006, there were still 90,000 refugees in Adjumani and Moyo, their number has now reduced to 20,000, most of whom will be repatriated in January.

As JRS leaves, almost all the schools have been handed over to the District. The government has taken over responsibility for the continuation of all educational services and 70 refugee teachers were employed. Pastoral services have been integrated with the local church of Arua Diocese and catechists have acquired adequate knowledge and skills to sustain the continuity of over 40 chapels.

Up to the last minute, the JRS Up to the last minute, the JRS team in Adjumani under the leadership of the last project director Lagu Angelo kept a high level of motivation and a good team spirit. Staff members repeatedly mentioned the high level of cooperation, the integrity and reliability of staff and the ignatian spiritualit

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