The Refugee International Reports does not reflect the refugee situation in Uganda
We are so much concerned about the commercialization of the misery of refugees by different actors who claim speaking for refugees. We distance ourselves from this report.
Date: March 16th, 2017
The Executive Director
United States of America
Dear Sir/ Madam,
Re: Reaction to the research work by New Refugees International Report on South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda entitled ““Getting it Right: Protection of South Sudanese Refugees in Uganda,”
We are a refugee led organization based in Uganda working of the promotion of refugee rights, peace in the great lakes region of Africa and good governance. We always present ourselves as the refugee voices and because of we are both witnesses and victims of actions taken towards refugees in Uganda.
As concerned refugees and refugee opinion leaders in Uganda about the situation of all refugees in general, we are so much preoccupied about this research work. We clearly understand that research on the situation of refugees in Uganda is so important as it may play different roles of informing those who have limited information, may guide those in power to make decisions and can shape policies which eventually may either positively or negatively affect refugees and enlighten refugees on particular issues which should attract their attention.
When we tried to interiorize this report, we have realized that it lacks many aspects which could have been its focus in order to help refugees, the spirit of this report is not compatible with human rights principles which affirms “human rights are Universal, Inalienable, indivisible and interdependent, and that services towards refugees should be available, accessible, affordable and of good quality, and that the state has the obligation to protect, respect and fulfill human rights”.
Over the years we have observed that such aspirations of refugees towards research work have not been taken into consideration by those who carry out research on refugees in Uganda. We feel much offended when researchers who could have been motivated by the desire to utilize their skills and opportunities in order to become the voices of refugees tend instead use refugees for their own interests, and as refugee leaders we have not hesitated to share our opinions about that, not only to you as we have done but others also, some few years back the Humanitarian Innovation Project (HIP) from OXFORD University came here for a research on Refugee Economies and we told them the mismatch between their interests and the interest of refugees and they are aware about reservation about the outcome of that research, there is a USA student founded by Full Bright, who is carrying a research on Congolese refugees here and we also informed how her work is nit based of the interest of refugees.
In most cases very few Ugandans know about the outcome of the research work yet these Ugandans in refugee host communities are the first who ensure the protection and the general well-being of refugees, many actors in the refugee regime who have opportunities to share their thoughts about refugees during their weekly meetings often do not have a chance to know the content and outcome of the research work because it is often limited to some top officials, and to make the matter worse refugees themselves do not know what is being written about them because they do not have access to information about such work and researchers do not take into consideration the need to inform refugees about the research work. This is because the findings of the research work are presented in New York, London, Washington, and Geneva among other big cities.
We have observed that over the years the research work being carried out has not address the issues of power and decision making by the refugee regime (OPM, UNHCR and Implementing Partners) which is at the center of refugee situation in Uganda. In most cases issues of arbitrary decisions, illegal policies and practices put in place which have negatively affected refugees have not been covered by the research and this makes it more selective and biased or even more protective. Let us also point out that many among those who carry the research are more preoccupied about their interested rater than the well being of all refugees.
It is on this background that we have opted to share with you our dissatisfaction about this research work which you carried out here in Uganda. We have been often pierced by those who believe and implement the policy of slicing refugees into small pieces for their own interest as you have done in this research which seemed to have been limited only to refugees from South Sudan. Let us bring to your attention that refugees from South Sudan do not face particular situation which others are not facing here in Uganda, they are not negatively or positively treated than any other refugees here in Uganda, and there is nothing they will gain from this research as South Sudan refugees alone. Those who believe like you in slicing refugees here in Uganda have caused so much harm to refugees than contributing to their protection which they are mandated to do. Let us remind you some other similar cases well maintained in place to serve the interest of the refugee regime such as what we hear like “urban refugees, most vulnerable cases, among others” which are a mechanism used to profit to some few within the refugee regime. We strongly believe that all refugees are affected by the same challenges and faced with the same problems and all reactions and interventions towards their problems should be inclusive and not discriminatory in order to respond to the requirements of basic standards of human rights and that of the Uganda Law on refugees.
It is currently unacceptable that you can focus on research like this about refugees without putting also attention on the causes why we are refugees. Let us remind you that much as Uganda hosts many refugees now, it is evident that Uganda has military of politically forced 90% of refugees out from their countries of origin such the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Somalia and Central African Republic among others. It is not on the favor of refugees to fail to bring out such element of Uganda barbaric military interventions into other states and yet refugees are eagerly wanting to know when will this end so that they can go back home.
Let us bring to your attention that such statement from your report “The Refugees International report finds that, in terms of their response to the influx of South Sudanese refugees, the Ugandan government and aid agencies have handled the processing, support, and protection of refugees effectively” is an insult to the plight of refugees are facing, it is an insult to your human conscience and an insult to those who oppress refugees here in Uganda that in this world they are still people like you willing to hide the reality.
Let us bring to your attention that the Government of Uganda together with the UN Agencies have the higher responsibilities of the misery faced by refugees much as they do not want the world to know how much they are making refugees suffer?
You need to think about the numbers of refugee who saved their lives from bullets in their countries of origin but now sentenced to die with curable diseases here in Uganda just because some who has power to decide within the refugee regime has decided that such a refugee will not get medical assistance, such a refugee should not be transferred, such a refugee should only be treated in a Government hospital or we cannot spend a lot of money of one sick refugee, …..
You need to think about these millions of children who were at school in their countries of origin but now cannot be protected from the compound of a school just because someone powerful in the refugee regime has decided that they should be treated the same as Ugandan children, making such a sentence which does not consider equity and where refugees have no chance to make an appeal.
You need to think about all these refugees in camps here in Uganda who are condemned to eat only 6 Kg of grain of Maize per month , and kept in these stores called settlement without future only waiting for their day to die just because someone has decided that refugees should not be treated well. You need to think about all these refugees sentenced to live in shame and inhuman shelters in camps just because someone who has power in the refugee regime has decided so without putting into account human dignity. You need to think about these refugees who are facing serious security concerns, those who are recruited to join rebels just because they are not fully protected because someone powerful within the refugee regime has decided that they should not enjoy protection, the list is too long.
Let us also bring to your attention that most of your recommendations are not for the interest of refugees but to help the refugee business to continue and where the most beneficiaries are those in the refugee regime. It appears more and more inhuman that in century refugee plight is being commercialized, it more of a trade, actually refugees in Uganda are a new “found Mineral” which benefit only some few decision makers. From your first recommendation, let us remind you that the issue we are battling with is not to send more aid to Uganda, but to answer our questions of where does the aid go, and who are the beneficiaries? To give us answers why this massive violation of refugee rights in silence, and why do we have in place illegal policies and practices which violate refugee rights?
It is important to bring to your attention that Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) cases cannot be addressed in isolation as some mushrooming organizations which only want money are aiming at but rather link it to the whole issues of the durable solutions to refugee problems, the issues of poverty and misery, lack of education among others. And in terms of priorities, SGBV is not among the first, not even the second and not even the third preoccupation for refugees and actually there issues of why do we have SGBV? And how can we address it?
On your second recommendation, let us make it very clear again that any kind of aid given to the refugee regime is not necessary true that it is given to refugees, and therefore you should have come up with innovative ways in which these USA institutions can offer their financial assistance to refugee directly though refugee led initiatives which are many in Uganda. A sector of information which reached to us did indicate that 75% of the available Humanitarian Aid is used by institutions for their administrative costs, and the 25% is given to implementing partners which also use 15% for their own needs and then 10% is channeled to refugees.
Your third recommendation, the problem is that in most cases many of you have not yet been flexible to the Human Centered Approaches, as refugees we have no challenges with ReHoPE and has less impact on us, what we need more is the end of discrimination by the state, by non-state actors and other stake holders in Uganda. We need to go beyond the traditional three solutions to refugee problems and involve sustainable development, it is to shift from emergency responses to durable development programs, it about helping refugees to see their future, to see them moving in their dreams, and yet as we have observed it the spirit of ReHoPE is far from that.
Your fourth recommendation is great and dear to us much as it too simplistic compared to the magnitude of the problem in this field where most of the humanitarian aid end in the pockets of the few, where UN Agencies look at such situation with so much silence in the name of diplomacy, where refugees who try to denounce such malpractices have been seriously badly handled and sometimes by a decision from UNHCR officers. The violation and abuses against refugees here in Uganda are not limited to the Government but also to all those with power, and above all that recommendation should have looked at issues of refugee participation in decision making and empowerment about their human rights. We strongly recommend that you carry out another research work on this particular recommendation.
Your fifth recommendation, we are saying that much as we have refugees who need extra attention in terms of Equity, we are against the move to response to the needs of the few refugees called those in need at the expenses of other refugees who also need help. And also our major concerns are more about the real one who need help, in most cases and in different refugee communities those who are viewed as “special need people” are not necessary needy refugees.
Your last recommendation is that often time you do forget that for a programme to be more effective, it should be refugee driven, refugees should participate but not only called upon to consume and that is where the problem is. Here in Uganda, often times organizations call refugees for a meeting where refugees are meant to share their views for formality but in actual sense refugee views do not change anything, or sometimes it about an information session where refugees are only asked to listen and clap their hands and that is what they call participation.
It is our hope that you will consider these comments as friendly aiming at helping you to be more mindful about our interests as refugees in Uganda. This is report looks like an addition to the Refugee Regime here in Uganda lobby for funds in the names of refugees and which funds refugees do not get.
We remain available to share with you all our ideas and what we think can help us refugees in Uganda.
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos