Today is the international Refugee Day that is recognized and celebrated across the globe, Uganda inclusive.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees(UNHCR), a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has well founded fear for persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality or differences in political opinions.
The presence of refugees in Uganda dates back in 1940’s when Uganda hosted Polish refugees at Nyabyeya, Masindi District, and they were later resettled in Britain, Australia and Canada. Currently, Uganda hosts over 1.4Milllion refugees mainly from South Sudan, Burundi, DRC, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Sierra-Leone among others.
Uganda is considered as a paradise for refugees because of her conducive policies and the hospitality accorded to the Refugees. The Self reliance strategy (SRS) for refugees initiated by the Government of Uganda and UNHCR under the Office of the Prime Minister has received a global recognition because of it’s effectiveness and the positive impact it has created to the refugees. Under this program, refugees are allocated some small pieces of land, can get employment opportunities, but also do small scale enterprises.
The Refugee and Host Population Empowerment (ReHoPE) is another policy strategy initiated by the Government of Uganda to support the refugees and the host communities. This arrangement supports the social and economic well fair of both the refugees and the host communities. This policy strategy has seen an improved relations between the refugees and the host communities as opposed to the self reliance program that used to support only refugees.
These two programs have greatly achieved in improving the livelihoods of refugees and the host communities, however in my opinion, there are some challenges the government should work out in order to fix the refugee crisis in Uganda. These include; corruption and mismanagement of refugee matters, illegal movements of refugees in the country, multiple registrations of refugees by the officials responsible, increasing support for the refugee host communities, constructive and sustainable community engagement aimed at improving the relations of refugees and the host communities. Strengthening the capacity of local governments in refugee hosting districts is very crucial as well.
Conclusively, I think Uganda’s refugee policy is favourable to the refugees, only that the leaders that handle refugees matters need to have commitment, zeal and the will to make the lives of refugees better. There’s also need to increase funding for refugees programs by the development partners in Uganda.
The writer is freelance and an independent social researcher with a kin interest in political economy, governance and other socio economic dimensions of development.
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