Refugees living in various places in the Kampala Metropolitan Area have been advised to prioritize their personal safety ahead of the general elections scheduled for next week, January 14, 2021.
This follows complaints from the refugees who allege that their lives are in danger after the opposition enthusiasts branded them “NRM supporters who have continuously kept President Museveni in power.”
Emmy Mawa, a refugee from South Sudan who is working as a driver, said that he narrowly survived death during the recent November free Bobi Wine protests.
“We were driving from the Office of the Prime Minister, when we met the roadblock. They stood and ordered us to chant the ‘People Power Our power’ slogan before being they could let us go, good enough, our vehicle was red in colour, this gave us an added advantage,” he said.
“We are also scared of the on-going rumors that if President Museveni does not win, we shall be deported back to our countries,” he added.
These refugees, mainly from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and other Horn of Africa Countries, rose these concerns during the information sharing interaction session at the Refugees and Hope Organisation in Kasanga at a training on ‘navigating through the elections period’ that was organized by an NGO, Smart Transitions, in partnership with the Uganda Media Women Association on Friday.
The refugees pointed out that Ugandan opposition supporters are allegedly advising them to go and settle in camps because they (refugees) don’t deserve to live in Cities.
Muhamad Ahmed, the Chairperson of the Somali Students in Uganda called upon the government to come up with a toll free line that can be used by refugees, in case they have any problem.
“We really need that number because our people sometimes get problems and fail to get justice from police so such a number will help in rescuing us, and many more emergencies,” he said.
The training was the second of such kind after the first one that was organized on Saturday last week in Nsambya.
Refugees living in parts of Nsambya, like their Kansanga counterparts, also expressed the same concern – the possible post election violence.
“We recently received WhatsApp messages on our phones informing us that once President Museveni goes through, they will massacre all of us and when opposition takes the lead, we will be deported,” they 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,” they added.
Sara Birungi Namuddu, the Executive Director of Smart Transitions, said that there was need to organize these trainings because most refugees do not know how they can keep themselves safe during these polls.
“We first had one in Nsambya and carried out community outreaches through their churches and sensitized them about their safety. Refugees need to know their rights and how they can access them because the increasing numbers of violence cases will affect many people especially after the polls,” Birungi said.
Samuel Kalama, the Public Relations Officer of Refugee and Hope Organization said that there is need for immediate government intervention in issues concerning the safety of Refugees.
He noted that the organization offers educational guidance to over 1500 refugees per annum.
Data from the United High Commission for Refugees reports indicates 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.
“Many urban refugees in Uganda live in violence hotspots in Uganda like; Nsambya, Kisenyi, Kansanga, Bukasa, Katwe, Mengo, Nakulabye and Kazo-Angola,” Namuddu added.
Police promise security
Speaking at the Security briefing in Kampala, Mr. Martin Okoth Ochola, the Inspector general of police promised the masses including refugees that there will be no violence.
“Our Country has no specific threats at this stage targeting elections but we are aware of some candidates, who even without evidence, are already questioning the outcome of the Election and when they lose, their supporters are planning to hold disruptive and violent demonstrations, riots and civil unrests and foreign disinformation, which we are ready to crush,” he said.
Ochola said that they (Police) are committed to working collaboratively with other stakeholders to manage all threats and liabilities.
Refugees Tipped on their safety
Refugees were advised to stay away from campaign activities and not respond to any campaign slogans.
Namuddu, who facilitated this session, also told refugees to avoid participating in any unlawful activity like riots and demonstrations.
“Don’t involve in political debates, avoid facilitating any politician or political activity, avoid moving at night, observe curfew, 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,” she warned.