Some 26,500 South Sudanese, mostly women and children, have crossed into Uganda since fighting between rival forces erupted in and around the capital, Juba, on July 7, the United Nations refugee agency reported.

On Thursday alone, an estimated 8,337 refugees crossed into Uganda, setting a single-day record since the influx began in 2016.

"Thousands of people continue to flee uncertainty and fighting in South Sudan," a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Andreas Needham, told reporters in Geneva, adding that more than 90 per cent of those are women and children.

The influx is severely stretching the capacity of collection points, transit centres and reception centres, he said.

On Wednesday night, more than 7,000 people slept at Elegu collection point, significantly beyond its 1,000-person capacity. Similarly, Kuluba collection point is hosting 1,099 refugees, compared to its 300-person capacity. Torrential rains are further hampering registration efforts, he added.

Needham said that new arrivals in Adjumani reported that fighting was continuing between the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) loyal to President Salva Kiir and the SPLA in Opposition backing First Vice-President Riek Machar. There are reports from Magwi that armed gunmen continue to loot properties, forcibly recruit boys and young men, and murder civilians.

Another Uganda People's Defense Force convoy evacuating Ugandan nationals from South Sudan was carried out on Friday, the spokespersons said, noting that on previous occasions, a large number of refugees have taken the opportunity to flee the country by accompanying the convoy.

Meanwhile, Machar said Friday that he would not return to Juba until regional troops are deployed in the capital to ensure his safety, his representative in Ethiopia, Jooyul Goi Yol said.

"We will not go back to be murdered," said Goi Yol Jooyul. "We will not respond" to the call of President Salva Kiir, who asked Thursday Riek Machar returned to Juba to revive the peace process. Kiir said he expect a response within "48 hours."

Machar has not been seen since he left Juba after days of fierce fighting that claimed the lives of at least three hundred people and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.

His representative said several of Machar's bodyguards were killed in the violence, which is one of the reasons he has declined to return.

On Thursday, Kiir gave Machar a 48 hour ultimatum to return to the country's capital Juba and work on implementing the peace agreement they signed in August.

"I am appealing for your return while reiterating my 100 percent commitment to ensuring your protection and overall security " Kiir said in a statement read by his spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny. "I will be expecting a response from your good self within 48 hours "

The statement did not however disclose what would happen if Machar failed to return or make contact.

More than 10,000 people have died and over 2 million displaced since the conflict in South Sudan first erupted in December 2013.



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