The rate at which refugees are flocking into Uganda amidst inadequate support from the international community is likely to lead Uganda into a situation of high indebtedness, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has said.
Kadaga said she was disappointed with the International community which has left Uganda to shoulder much of the burden of refugees.
“We had a humanitarian summit in 2017 as you know; it was a big hype. The international community was in Kampala and they pledged to give Uganda US$ 2 billion but in the end they sent only US$ 350 million,” said Kadaga.
The Speaker made these remarks at a meeting on humanitarian localization at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel on Wednesday, 28 October 2020.
Kadaga said Uganda is witnessing depletion of its natural resources and pressure on infrastructure translating into costs to government.
“I have told donors that Ugandan roads were not made for these high tonnage trucks that transport relief items. The roads connecting to refugee communities are in worse state; I have told them that they need to construct roads,” she said.
Over one million refugees have fled to Uganda in the last two and a half years, making the Pearl of Africa the third largest refugee-hosting country in the world after Turkey and Pakistan, with 1.19 million refugees by December 2018.
Wars, violence and persecution in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region were the main drivers of forced displacement into Uganda, led by South Sudan’s conflict, insecurity and ethnic violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and political instability and human rights violations in Burundi.
South Sudanese make up the largest refugee population in Uganda (789,099 people) as of December 2018, followed by refugees from the DRC (312,699) and Burundi (34,981).
Another 54,143 refugees from Somalia, Rwanda, Eritrea Sudan and Ethiopia have lived in protracted exile in Uganda for the past three decades. Sixty-two per cent of Uganda’s refugees are under the age of 18, one of the most visible consequences of conflicts in neighboring countries – and with clear implications for the provision of protection services.
Kadaga maintained that whereas government has had to shoulder the burden, the United Nations should take full responsibility of refugees who currently 1.4 million people.
“Refugees belong to UN; for us, we are simply the host. The UN should therefore carry their full responsibility,” Kadaga said.
The state Minister for Local Government, Hon Jennifer Namuyangu said her ministry is concerned that in some of the refugee host communities in Yumbe and Obongi districts, the population of refugees is way higher than that of Ugandan nationals.
This, she said, is likely to breed conflicts resulting from access to services and resources within such communities.
The Kabale Municipality MP, Hon Aja Baryayanga said this has more often bred conflicts resulting from nationals who he said feel rejected by government in favour of refugees.
He said Parliament must look into amending the law to provide for mechanisms of raising funds to facilitate refugees in order to reduce pressure on resources designed for nationals.
Baryayanga called on government to crack down on misuse and diversion of resources meant for humanitarian purposes.
“We passed a motion in Parliament to support refugee host communities but I can tell you this money did not reach the intended communities,” said Baryayanga.