Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos Opening Remarks during refugee leaders meeting
Wednesday May 3rd, 2017 more than 30 refugee leaders in Kampala met in order to deliberate on number of things affecting refugees, we thank the Foundation PPDHR for Coordinating the meeting, we thank InterAid for providing us with the soft drinks and the making sure the Community center was available.
This meeting was unique because of many factors which include: New management at InterAid with new ideas, possibility to access now Antonio Guterres Refugee Community Center, free space for free expression among refugees, and the work of the Inspector General of UNHCR in Kampala last among others.
Here is the fully speech of Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos “Pecos Speech to refugee leaders during the meeting 2017
Welcome speech of Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos the Executive Director of Foundation People for Peace and Defense of Human Rights during the meeting with refugee leaders in Kampala about the way forward after the suspension of the Executive Director of InterAid Uganda
Dear colleagues, I warmly welcome you all in your different capacities for this great and special meeting of its kind. This meeting today will pave away for the future of refugees in Kampala and you are the leaders to decide on behalf of the refugees you lead. We greatly thank the management of Guterres Refugee Community Center here in Kabusu for giving us the opportunity to meet here, for some of us like me, this is my first time to organize a meeting here.
Let me get this opportunity to thank you all refugee leaders in Kampala for the wonderful job you are doing, for that resilience to shoulder the plight of others, often time at the expenses of your own challenges, to many refugees you look like their redeemer, let us not joke with that task and responsibility we have in our communities to play our civic obligations towards others and towards this nation, our contributions in the refugee protection process is remarkable.
We are grateful to Uganda for opening up its borders to all of us and to others who are still coming after us, apart from some few incidences across the districts near the borders where some Rwandans who should have been given the opportunity to be evaluated by the Refugee Eligibility Committee are sometimes sent back to Rwanda in the name of illegal migrants. We think that Uganda has done a unique work in welcoming refugees into Uganda, and we strongly encourage the Government of Uganda to also address the above few incidents in order to make the refugee welcome completely good and fair process for all.
Let me get this opportunity to share my convictions with those who argue that Uganda should limit the number of refugees on its territory that such arguments are not in line with our conscience, morality and international obligations which Uganda subscribe to, the question is not about the number of refugees but the question which we need to address now is the governance of refugees into Uganda, as a country we need to transit urgently from the current management options.
During this meeting today let us re-echo our engagement and why we exist as refugee leaders here in Uganda by reminding ourselves that opening the border for refugees is one thing and ensuring their protection in the country is another thing. And above all interiorize the fact that we cannot exhaustively address refugee issues without looking at the causes why people run away from their countries. And because we are refugee leaders looking into all these things, that makes our diversity which is for us an asset and which we should cherish.
Our meeting today will mainly focus on our convictions that refugees should be protected while in Uganda. For some of us the limited protection space or the lack of protection when we came to Uganda exposed us to all sorts of hardship and abuses, all our efforts to seek for services were fruitless. We then organized ourselves and became a solution to others in similar situation like us; we led and participated different actions in different places in our diversities but with one aim and one goal to help other refugees to live better. I congratulate you for that great choice you took to help others.
Our existence as refugee leaders cannot be ignored anymore, our actions for refugee protection cannot be ignored anymore and our sacrifices to ensure that others live better cannot be ignored anymore. Because of that identity we cannot afford to be considered as a satellite groups which can be compromised anytime as some efforts in the past were deployed by different actors among them those who deny the capacity of refugees. We refuse those who think that we can be easily coerced, compromised dragged based on what they want, and because of that we claim our identity of thinking refugee leaders, or refugee leaders with a vision, a mission and objectives and not only limited to opportunities. We need to sit down and talk to each other; we need to coexist and to accept each other.
Dear sisters and brothers for the last 15 years we have been complaining, murmuring or opposing about the way InterAid Uganda offered us services. All our efforts to advise InterAid in order to do better and serve refugees to their best were shut down, and some of us became blackmailed, persecuted, perceived as rebels and dangerous refugees in Uganda to avoid by the same institutions and organizations which owe us protection.
Some among us took the option of an open struggle through various activities, some of us held prayers without end, some other worked with InterAid in the view that they can change the situation within, some of us opted to ignore the refugee regime and do things on their own, some of us helped InterAid to oppress other refugee leaders, some of us opted to surrender because they thought nothing cannot be changed while others opted to observe. That is our reality and diversity which we have to accept and live with in harmony. We know that this work was done by other people of good will who shared also our sentiments among them the development partners, people within the refugee regime, the media and press, researchers and academicians, United Nations Missions which visited Uganda, and all other delegations which came to Uganda.
We have been informed that the Executive Director of InterAid whom we blamed always for contributing to the plight of refugees in Kampala was suspended since January 2017. This came shortly after an inquiry from the UNHCR Inspector General which visited Uganda last year 2016. We are so grateful that this finally was done and our prayers were heard but also we regret that it took UNHCR Inspector General 17 years to do this work, this is unacceptable and should not be repeated.
Dear sisters and brothers, here we are today with a feeling of new hope, with a joy mixed with sorrow. What was done is just a small drop of water into an Ocean but at least as per now we have a starting point. We may all have the sense of vengeance against InterAid but as per now it has a new temporal leadership and on top of that which should work on particular recommendations formulated by the UNHCR Inspector General Offices. We have to learn to accept this reality of living together with those who oppressed us and taking a new look. As refugees we have been asking all along for better services, participation in decision making, partnership, observance of our human rights, projection of the future, transparency and to ensure that our voices count, among others. Will the new leadership of InterAid incarnate these aspirations? If yes we shall then put down all our tools and relax and if no we shall continue the struggle, until that is done.
Now, as I conclude and before I call upon the Executive Director of InterAid to brief us about what happened and what is on ground at InterAid and convince us that they are no longer the InterAid we know, let us have these few questions in mind which we have to deliberate on in few minutes. We are not a political party wanting to destroy InterAid so that we can take over, NO, we are just a Civil Society Movement looking for better services, struggling for our human rights, putting strong faith in development and peace for all. We are not rebels against InterAid, we are just proposing to InterAid a different way of doing things.
Is it important to communicate to the UNHCR Inspector General and extend our thanks to them, but also ask them to carry more works here especially in food distribution in camps, in the whole resettlement process here, the whole UNHCR protection Unit and also trace responsibilities of people within the government of Uganda and UNHCR who helped InterAid to oppressed refugees all these years,
As we may know Scola was not acting alone at InterAid can all staff members who helped her to oppressed refugees be held accountable as well?
Can we agree that all those refugees who are the direct victims of InterAid actions over these years be looked at in form of reparation and justice without delay?
And can we ask the Government of Uganda and all other partners to audit all these other implementing partners here in Kampala who are also oppressive and abuse refugees and whose services to refugees leave a lot to be desired?
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos /Executive Director
Foundation People for Peace and Defense of Human Rights
Suite 9, 3rd Floor, Christive House/ Nkrumah Road Kampala – Uganda
Tel: +256 774 51 66 05/ +256 753 650 547 /Email: firstname.lastname@example.org