What you need to know:
- The Ugandans were spread all over Ukraine, but when the threat of war became imminent in the last weeks, they all coalesced around Kiev.
At least one hundred Ugandans are stranded in Ukraine amid fears of a full blown war as Russian troops launched an all-out invasion of its former Soviet territory by sea, land and air yesterday.
The invasion that started as sabre-rattling in February 2014, is the largest attack by one country against another in Europe since World War II, 77 years ago.
Two Ugandans living and working in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, described the situation as “tense, confusing, and a real commotion,” amid back-to-back state of emergency and martial law imposed by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the light of the Russian threat.
The Ugandans, who requested for anonymity, put the number of Ugandans living and working, including students, around Kiev at 100.
The Ugandans were spread all over Ukraine but when the threat of war became imminent in the last weeks they all coalesced around Kiev.
“We are spread over the Kiev but mostly in the capital and suburbs surrounding,” one Ugandan, who has lived in Kiev for the last decade told this newspaper, by telephone last evening.
He added: “It is a real commotion here with everyone not knowing what to expect. In fact when things get out of hand we think we will all be running to Poland. Pretty much everyone has packed and ready to leave.”
In Kiev, a city of three million people, the Ugandans narrated, “almost everyone is ready to flee.”
The ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kampala, and Uganda’s embassy in Moscow, yesterday could not confirm the exact number of Ugandans in Ukraine. Uganda’s embassy in Moscow is also accredited to Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.
Owing to the sensitivity of the matter, Uganda’s outgoing ambassador to Moscow, Johnson Agara Olwa, last evening referred Daily Monitor to headquarters in Kampala.
Ambassador Olwa was during the recent ambassador’s reshuffle replaced with Moses Kizige who lost the Bugabula South Parliamentary seat in the just-concluded polls.
In Kampala, the State minister for International Relations, Mr Okello Oryem, said they do not have the exact number of Ugandans marooned in the restive eastern European country because “generally Ugandans don’t want to register with our embassies abroad.”
“Remember when we had the Afghanistan crisis and you people were on our case but when we approached the Ugandans they said they don’t want to come back. Return to Uganda and do what; so it’s that complicated,” Mr Oryem said by telephone.
Asked about Uganda’s position on Russia which enjoys cordial diplomatic relations with Kampala invading a sovereign country which contravenes international law and principles, Mr Oryem said “they are evaluating the situation.”
“We will have to confer with the President when he returns (from Kinshasa). Both sides (Russia and Ukraine) are our friends and the conflict has implications not just diplomatically but even on trade and international peace,” he added.
The ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr Vincent Bagiire, in a separate interview discounted reports circulating on social media that Kampala had flown out its diplomats from the embassy in Moscow, leaving Ugandans in neighbouring Ukraine on their own.
“It is not mandatory for students who study abroad to register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so the exact numbers in Ukraine are not known. Having said that we are in touch with our contacts in Ukraine and on standby to assist Ugandans that will seek assistance,” Mr Bagiire said.
The Ugandans Daily Monitor talked to yesterday, however, implored government “to be on standby to assist in anyway” including possible evacuation when opportunity presents.
At the crack of dawn yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a green light to his armed forces to launch a massive operation against Ukraine, sending residents in the capital Kiev in panic mode.
On Monday, the US and UK started withdrawing diplomats’ families but embassies remained open. Dependents of staffers were told to leave Kyiv amid growing tensions over Russia’s military build-up.
According to the Guardian, the US state department told its embassy staff in Kyiv to leave the country. It also said non-essential embassy staff could leave Ukraine at government expense. However, before the attack on Ukraine, the European Union had asked their dependents to stay put.
The US statement prompted other countries around the world to issue fresh warnings to their citizens in Ukraine. Yesterday, some foreign nationals, especially stranded students, sent out frantic tweets, requesting their governments to intervene.
But as Russian troops advance amid rising tensions, the authorities in Kiev, citing a potential hazard to civil aviation, issued a NOTAM (Notice of Air Missions) on Wednesday, restricting all civilian flights to the region.
Ugandan says. It is a real commotion here with everyone not knowing what to expect. In fact when things get out of hand we think we will all be running to Poland. Pretty much everyone has packed and ready to leave,” Ugandan in Ukraine says.
Ugandan official says. ‘‘Remember when we had the Afghanistan crisis and you people were on our case but when we approached the Ugandans they said they don’t want to come back. ‘Return to Uganda and do what?’ so it’s that complicated,” State minister for International Relations, Okello Oryem.