The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hillary Onek has asked the international community to stop judging Uganda over a mistake that was made by a few individuals a year back
In 2017, Uganda came to a global limelight when it was discovered that the number of refugees hosted in the country was inflated by over 300,000 and that some refugee funds were mismanagement between 2016 and 2017.
This led to withdraw of funding from donor communities including the United Kingdom, Japan EU among others.
According to Onek, although Uganda has put in place mitigation measures against future mismanagement of funds and gone ahead to prosecute the perpetuators, the international community has been using the incident to marginalize Uganda and its efforts in hosting refugees
“I can assure you that Uganda is not corrupt and that the management of refugee funds, let us go beyond that incident, you cannot continue judging us by the past,” he said
And added; “If the situation continues like this, we might also change our generous policy of open boarders to all refugees. Be aware that each of our actions affect the already affected refugees.”
The minister was speaking today at a one-day high profile consultation meeting for the upcoming Global Refugee Forum scheduled for 17th to 18th December 2019 in Geneva Switzerland.
The forum is intended to discuss and make resolutions for the Global Compact on Refugees that was affirmed by the UN General Assembly a year back with the objectives of easing pressure on host communities, enhance refugee self-resilience, expand access to third- country solutions and support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.
Uganda being one of the refugees host country with the largest number of refugees and the best policies on Refugee settlement and integration is expected to make a presentation at the forum and share its experience.
The meeting hosted by the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) brought together ambassadors of refugee supporting countries, development partners, UN agencies Non-Government Organisations and government of Uganda officials to discuss expectation and pre-engagements for the forum
Speaking at the event, the UNHCR Representative in Uganda, Joel Boutroue said the international community was appreciative of Uganda’s efforts to welcome and support refugees but expected accountability and openness in the management of the refugee matters if they are to freely support the government
“Start with prosecuting the perpetuators of corruption cases that were reported. We want some assurance that the refugee funds will not be misappropriated. We hope that issue will already be under the carpet by the time of the forum so that it does not get in terms way of the great discussion for the betterment of the refugees in Uganda and everywhere in the world,” he said.
He added that the donors are prioritising better education, health services for all refugees as well as protection of the water and environment especially in host communities
Speaking at the same event, the UN Resident Coordinators in Uganda, Rosa Malango said the UN was committed to continued support to government of Uganda bother financially and politically and urged all the countries that have pledged funds for refugees to give it in time so that Uganda does not suffer resource depreciation due to the large numbers of refugees.
Uganda currently hosts over 1.3m refugees mainly from South Sudan and DRC