A section of refugees living in different parts of Kampala have expressed concern over what they called increased threats from the members of Uganda’s opposition parties whom they said think that they (refugees) are partly responsible for President Yoweri Museveni’s continued stay in power.
Without mentioning any a single party because of what they called their safety, refugees said their lives are in danger because identifying onceself as a refugee especially from; Burundi, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo puts one at risk of brutality and harassment from the groups.
“We recently received WhatsApp messages on our phones informing us that once president Museveni wins, they will come and massacre all of us and that when the opposition wins, they will deport us,” Peace Iranzi Seyanga, a refugee from DRC living in Kirombe Zone in Nsambya said.
“We are living under fear, Ugandans have constantly failed to understand that we are not part of their electoral process; we also have our own problems that led us here and do not wish for anything except peace,” she added.
The refugees made these revelations while attaining training on how to keep themselves safe and secure during this election period.
The training was organized by an NGO called; Smart Transitions in partnership with RISE-UP and Uganda Media Women Media Association (UMWA) in Kampala on Saturday.
“The Opposition think that we are supporting the majority (National Resistance Movement) and as we move right now we fear because of the WhatsApp Audio that we all received,” Iranzi noted.
Frank Mpangu another refugee who also attended the training said they are suffering because of all these threats
“They do not know that we (refugees) do not engage in their electoral processes here. Our Ugandan neighbors have made it a routine of asking us which politicians we support and they all want to hear the answer of their politicians they support,” he noted.
“Because of this, we are forced to enter in our homes before curfew time, we need help people are targeting us.” he
A number of refugees who spoke to Chimpreports noted that the police, where they expect help has instead turned into their enemies.
“Police has totally done a disservice to us, when you are refugee and report the case, it is just dumped, they don’t like us either,” Julien Nash another refugee said.
“Some of the Ugandans, including police officers accuse us of causing the increase in prices of goods and house rent in places where we stay and that is why they are mad at us. So when you add on their feeling that we are keeping President Museveni in power, we become a real target,” he added.
Nash and others called upon the government to not only promote National Civic Education but also redeploy disciplined police officers in their areas for their safety.
Sara Birungi Namuddu, the Executive Director of Smart Transitions, who organized this training told the Chimpreports that there was need for refugees especially those living in urban areas to be equipped with some skills and caution especially in this period as the country prepares for the general elections.
“Already there have been cases of violence that left many people including urban refugees on cross roads. At least five refugees lost their lives and several others sustained injuries during the recent November violence where the National Unity Platform (NUP) party presidential candidate was arrested,” she said.
Data from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees shows that Uganda is the third largest Refugee hosting Country in the world, with over 1.2 million refugees of which approximately 100,000, live in Kampala.
“It’s no secret that many Urban Refugees in Uganda live in Elections hotspots in Uganda like; Nsambya, Kisenyi, Kansanga, Bukasa, Katwe, Mengo, Nakulabye and Kazo-Angola,” Namuddu added.
Margret Ssentamu, the UMWA Executive Director, who furnished the refugees with tips urged them to first of all recognize their position as foreigners and abide by all laws and regulations of the country if they are to remain secure in this country,
“Stay away from campaign activities, don’t go in places where there are campaigns; if caught in confusion, quickly move home and don’t respond to any campaign slogan,” she told them adding,
“Don’t participate in any unlawful activity like riots, don’t involve in political debates, avoid facilitating any politician or political activity, avoid moving at night; observe curfew time, don’t accept bribe to participate in the election activities and besides all observe the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to contain the spread of COVID-19,”