Tuesday January 28 2014

Do you know the plight of exiles in Uganda?

By Hussain Kiflu

The ruling party in Uganda has celebrated its 28th year monopoly with the usual fanfare and pageantry so common in Sub-Saharan Africa despite little cause for celebration. Celebration or no celebration, a series run by the Daily Monitor related to the just ended occasion titled children of revolutionaries piqued my interest.

This brings me to Mr Kwame Rugunda’s story as profiled in the Daily Monitor of January 15.

Kwame is the son of Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, a “former” revolutionary who is currently a Minister of Health. Naturally, as one of the occupational “hazards” every “revolutionary” faces, Rugunda’s family too ended up in exile, first in Kenya, then in Sweden.

While confirming Kwame’s indicting statement on Kenya’s abiding record of exposing exiles to danger ranging from extradition to assassination, it also prompted me to highlight how Uganda hosts and “unhosts”exiles from various refugee communities.

I have never bought Uganda’s projection of the image that portrays itself as embracing of refugees “Pan-African” style.

An exile in Uganda today is barred from exercising his inalienable right such as engaging in “any kind” of politics concerning his own as well as any other country. (See Refugee Act 2006).
Around the time the Uganda congratulated itself for scraping work permit fees to Kenyan, Rwandan nationals in the spirit of the EAC and Pan-Africanism, it was harassing African refugees to produce work permits for toiling at menial jobs or for having sweatshops. And the fee required to obtain this magic “permit” is more than $250. (See Guidelines for Refugees Employed Outside Gazetted Areas by Ministry of Internal Affairs).

The worst, though, that assails an exile’s consciousness in Uganda; if not “awaken” it like Kwame is the abysmal failure of Uganda in protecting members of some specific refugee communities. As a result, an exiled Rwandan journalist named Charles Ingabire was gunned down in 2011 right here in Kampala.

Another named Lt Joel Mutabazi was “unofficially” extradited recently while the Uganda pretended to be asleep on the wheel.

In light of all these, I would also ask these Ugandan children of revolutionaries as to whether they do know the plight of exiles in Uganda as former fellow exiles themselves.