11 March 2019

East Africa: Refugees Overwhelming Uganda - Otafiire

Neighbouring countries should learn from Uganda and resolve their political differences without resorting to war that eventually forces their nationals to flock into Uganda as refugees, minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire has said.

Otafiire said Uganda is getting overwhelmed by the high number of refugees flocking the country and that matters are not helped by the limited resources. He said because of the huge numbers, sometimes Uganda has fallen short in service delivery for the refugees.

"Uganda has limited resources to facilitate the needs of refugees but because of empathy, Uganda shall never stop hosting refugees because at the end we are all Africans," Otafiire said.

"If we constantly agree in politics it becomes a church, they say 'clap' you clap, 'stand' you stand, disagree and go to hell. We politicians need disagree without fighting each other so as we don't create refugee situations." he added.

The minister said this while launching a report on rule of law, access to justice and security needs for refugees and host communities of Arua and Isingiro districts at the Sheraton Hotel Kampala last week.

Arua hosts refugees mainly from South Sudan while the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Isingiro district hosts refugees mainly from Somalia, DR Congo, Ethiopia and Rwanda. The report was done by the Legal Aid Service Provider's Network (Laspnet) with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

According to the report Uganda hosts the largest community of refugees in Africa (1.2 million) but many of them lack access to justice. UNHCR country representative to Uganda Joel Boutrou said it's his organisation's obligation to protect rights of refugees and support host states to promote the rule of law, access to justice and security for refugees.

He mentioned that the biggest problem they face as UNHCR is lack of enough security where one policeman is in charge of protecting 3000 refugees yet some are living in hostile communities that feel threatened by the idea of losing their land to settle refugees.

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