South Sudanese families displaced by fighting, queue for vaccination in Lamwo, Uganda. Reuters
Mumtaz Kassam, The Independent
Germany and the UK have suspended refugee funding to Uganda, the world’s second-biggest host country for refugees. The almost 2 million displaced people in Uganda will be the victims of this, driving them into the hands of ruthless people traffickers – and perhaps to the shores of Europe.
Uganda is a humanitarian superpower that is almost completely unrecognised as such outside humanitarian and aid circles. Second only to Turkey in the number of refugees within its borders, Uganda is special not only because of the numbers it welcomes, but because of the way it treats them.
Just as Germany has welcomed refugees in what some see as an atonement for the crimes committed during the Nazi era, president Musaveni’s Uganda has done the same in a clear break from Idi Amin’s policies of creating, rather than welcoming, refugees. I should know: my family were made stateless by Amin.
Refugees in Uganda – regardless of their country of origin or personal circumstances – are given a plot of land to grow food, and immediately have the right to travel, seek employment, or start a business anywhere in the country. Not much is said about this in the West, perhaps because many of Uganda’s refugee guests come from Africa’s invisible conflicts. While TV cameras were focused on Syria, protracted wars in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo created millions of displaced people, many with serious physical and mental health needs.
Part of the reason for the effective media blackout on Uganda’s humanitarian miracle is, I believe, cultural: Ugandans see this as a moral obligation, rather than a political operation or PR campaign. The other reason for the neglect is Europe’s self-interest: while Syrian refugees were quick to arrive in Europe via dozens of Greek islands, the African refugees Uganda hosts have been slower to move into Europe through Italy. But as this Mediterranean route has intensified, the political result has been the rise of the far-right across Europe.
This makes it even more shocking that, at a time when Europe should be supporting Uganda in giving refugees a future, it has, in fact, abandoned it.
This abandonment is from an already low starting point: the Ugandan Solidarity Summit on Refugees in 2017 aimed to raise a much-needed $2bn from wealthy donor countries. It raised less than a fifth of that amount, with just $358 million being pledged.
This is at a time when EU money and policy is padding the pockets of warlords in Libya in return for them controlling immigration to Europe, according to Human Rights Watch. German news magazine Der Spiegel also reported that Brussels has also paid for a Trump-style border wall between Turkey and Syria, at a time when Turkey is illegally deporting refugees to war-torn Syria. There are no publicly available figures for how much the EU paid for Erdogan’s wall; it would understandable if Brussels was keen to avoid discussing it.
With all this money being spent by donor countries, why cut off Uganda and its 1.8 million refugees? It may be that Kampala needs to become more media savvy or even boastful about its refugee policy, and even invite some celebrities for photo opportunities, as president Erdogan has done.
Beyond that, the official explanation for the west’s refugee funding boycott is that it is a response to cases of corruption around refugee funding in the country. Although the UN’s internal auditors have levelled accusations of impropriety, this is not a domestic Ugandan issue.
An audit carried out by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services led to accusations of corruption and mismanagement of funds meant for refugees within the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.
The audit report released on November 28, 2018, made a number of recommendations including a review of UNHCR management. Unfortunately, this is prevalent at so many levels and in various guises, and donor countries must have better monitoring systems in place and should ensure that the system is accountable and transparent.
In any case, if donors only funded countries where there were no cases of alleged corruption, there would not be any help for refugees in the developing world at all.
The ultimate victims of this are displaced people who are fleeing some of the most barbaric terrorist groups and militias in the world. Far from the news cameras and in a region that very few journalists travel to and fewer understand, the conflicts in the countries surrounding Uganda show no sign of ending.
Until Europe decides to welcome the millions of refugees who those wars continue to create, it should at least stand by its partners in the region who do what they can to help – even if they are, like Uganda, a small developing country.
Sudan’s new prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, arrived in South Sudan on Thursday on his first official visit since becoming premier, declaring “the sky is the limit” for ties between the former foes.
The signing of a final power-sharing agreement by Sudan’s pro-democracy movement and the ruling military council is a historic step that ensures participation of all spectrums of Sudanese national forces and will certainly help consolidate the stability of the political system. Sudan has re-scripted history with the dawn
Since government troops started a war in the northern Tigray state of Ethiopia, hundreds, possibly thousands of lives have been lost.
The Russian deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in neighbouring Belarus has provoked, and predictably too, a negative reaction from the United States, the other big nuclear power which has deployed tactical nuclear weapons in NATO member-countries at the beginning of the Cold War in the 1950s. Russia has said the US
New York has been losing people to other states for a while. But something new happened during the pandemic: The people who left had higher incomes than those who stayed behind — much higher. The 2020-21 numbers here were released in late April by the Internal Revenue Service. They sort taxpayers by whether and
The Dubai Criminal Court that jailed a person for 3 years and fined him Dhs10,000 on charges of stabbing an Asian, after they quarrelled over the priority of having dinner, is laudable and people should think twice before committing a crime (“Man stabbed for not allowing another man to skip queue at order counter of a Dubai
Celine Dion has always been an icon. At school in the 1990s, she solidified her place in our teenage hearts with (of course) “My Heart Will Go On”, the standout track from weepy blockbuster Titanic (which, I confess, I saw three times at the cinema. Yes, that’s nearly 10 hours of my life I’ll never get back). I remember vividly going