Uganda has been hailed world over for its open door policy on refugees. UN and all its member states during last year’s Summit sang praises at how kind and hospitable this country is towards people, who are not its own.
No wonder $350 million was raised to help in responding to the refugee influx in the country. All this acclamation lies on the background that Uganda currently hosts more than 1.6 million refugees from more than 12 countries. No country, other than Turkey and Pakistan has been this gracious in the world.
It is, however, one thing to have so many refugees hosted in your country and another to let them be as free and entitled as the natives. Turkey and Pakistan might have bigger numbers than Uganda but the refugee entitlements are totally different. In Uganda, the refugee law is clear, all refugees are entitled to social and public services such as education, health care and are free to go anywhere in Uganda. They have a right to own land, farm on these plots and do business just like any other Ugandan. To many this is mind boggling as it seems a little too much kindness given that many nationals continue languish in poverty. According the Refugee Act 2016, refugees are also human beings and deserve better, just like anyone else, to this I agree.
Article 29 (1) (e) of the Refugee Act, refugees have a right to acquire assets and property, education, practice agriculture, industry, join professions and seek employment opportunities, sub section two of the same article further calls for the protection of refugees, their property and businesses as accorded to the nationals. All this tells of how rich and angelic Uganda’s refugee policy is, no wonder many countries have been dying to adopt the same.
With the recent scandal in OPM however, Uganda risks losing all the glory and international applaud for being a safe hub for properly managed refugees and refugee programmes. The scandal comes at a time when the country needs more funds since more refugees flow in every day, and the impending drought especially in Northern Uganda.
The UN report that revealed this scam highlights mismanagement of refugee funds and dubious refugee figures. The magnitude of this fraud is yet to be established, but be it of whatever magnitude, it would be evident that someone somewhere is not fit to be handling or managing refugee issues. Since refugees have been given chance to attain education even to the highest of levels, many of them would have the knowledge and skills to take over and overwhelmingly deliver in programme implementation far much better than some individuals targeting to steal from them.
Aggrey Nyondwa Kikobera
Social and Political Critic