The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Uganda, Ms. Almaz Gebru has lauded United Nations High Commission for Refugees for partnering with her agency in developing a comprehensive study which she says will go a long way in informing strategies aimed at enhancing refugees’ access to justice and community security among other precincts.
She made these remarks at the launch of the Assessment Report on Rule of Law, Access to Justice and Security Needs of Refugees and Host Communities in Arua and Isingiro districts that was held at Sheraton hotel in Kampala.
Speaking today, Gebru urged stakeholders to use contents of this report to design evidence-based interventions that are responsive to people’s needs.
“I am pleased to learn that this study was very participatory and as such reflects the perspectives of major stakeholders including refugees and host communities. I thus hope that the findings will deepen integration of rule of law, access to justice and security issues in all refugee development interventions”, she noted.
However she pointed out language barrier, harsh bail conditions and capacity gaps in investigating / handling Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) as key bottlenecks that urgently need to be worked upon.
On his part, Joel Boutrue the Representative United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) commended the government for its immeasurable efforts at both national and local levels towards ensuring security of refugees within the Country.
he called for close coordination between humanitarian agencies and key stakeholders in addressing the highlighted gaps.
“I am aware that a program document is being drawn to further narrow down the key areas of intervention. I am hopeful that this document will serve as a road map for the next steps in identifying specific areas of intervention and fundraising. I therefore call upon all institutions represented and development partners to contribute towards identified gaps and to support the justice Law and order sector,” Boutrue explains.
In response, the minister of Justice and constitutional affairs Kahinda Otafiire acknowledged the above mentioned challenges but pointed out the fact that being like other emerging economies, responsible institutions in Uganda tasked with executing these mandates are resource constrained and as such cannot do much.
“I must say that we are inadequate not because we do not care about refugees but also because we have shortages. We don’t have enough man power; we are a developing country and are resource constrained. But our hosting refugees is as a result of our empathy for fellow human beings,” he explains.
According to this report, 20.4 percent out of a total 840 refugee household surveyed complained of delays in the formal justice systems whereas 13.2 percent of the same respondents accused legal institutions of being corrupt.
Subsequently, this has led a considerable number to turn to informal channels such as church and tribal elders for litigation.
However even this is not far too efficient. Findings indicate that refugees in Isingiro were more likely to pay for such services compared to their counterparts in Arua, that is, 42 percent versus 9 percent comparably.
It was also discovered that there are no remand homes for refugees in Isingiro with Kabale and Fort portal the only options.
Other gaps identified in the report include; shortage of facilities and adequate human resource in police staffing. For instance, Isingiro district has 1 police officer for every 2,780 people, far below the recommended international ratio of 1 to 450.
The study which was conducted in Imvepi, Rhino camp and Nakivale refugee settlements was commissioned by the UNDP, Justice, Law and Order sector (JLOS) and Legal Aid Service Providers Network among other entities.
With an estimated 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers, Uganda is the largest host country in Africa.