UNHCR and the Government of #GuineaBissau🇬🇼 have successfully concluded the process of issuing identity cards for refugees living in the country
+5000 refugees have been naturalized
UNHCR and the Government of #GuineaBissau🇬🇼 have successfully concluded the process of issuing identity cards for refugees living in the country
+5000 refugees have been naturalized
Public narratives and attitudes towards refugees and other migrants: Uganda country profile
This briefing presents an overview of the key features of migration and asylum policy in Uganda, recent trends in migration, refugee and asylum patterns, public perceptions and political narratives on refugees and other migrants:
Uganda hosts a much higher proportion of refugees and other migrants relative to its population than other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Over time, the country’s approach to refugee hosting has shifted from being heavily restrictive towards becoming – at least in theory – one of the most progressive in the world.
There are several parallel narratives surrounding refugees and other migrants in Uganda. For example, Uganda has long been held up by international actors as an example of good practice for refugee hosting, however this has not always been matched with tangible funding commitments.
International and regional private sector actors are showing increased interest in investments in Uganda’s refugee-hosting areas. However, in contrast to other regional players such as Kenya, this has so far largely been limited to small-scale initiatives.
The briefing is part of a wider project, supported by the IKEA Foundation, that aims to engage public and private investors interested in migration and displacement.
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Rwandan refugees in Uganda may be thrown out – Minister Onek
The government of Uganda is considering cancelling the refugee status of thousands of Rwandans living in Uganda.
The announcement was made by the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hillary Onek while meeting lawmakers of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in Kampala.
He explained that government is considering cancelling their refugee status and instead issuing them with temporary permits.
“We are going to turn them over to the immigration department so that their long stay in Uganda will be subjected to immigration laws because immigration laws in Uganda say that you are given a #visa to stay for three months. Thereafter you have to justify your further stay in a country,” Mr Onek said.
The minister said that the process of convincing Rwandans to return home has not been easy as many are not willing to do so.
Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans fled to Uganda following the 1994 genocide.
Rwanda has generally been peaceful for over 20 years and many Rwandese who had fled have since returned to their home country.
But government says there are still over 14000 Rwandans still living in Uganda as refugees.
#réfugiés_rwandais #ouganda #asile #migrations #réfugiés #modèle_ougandais (?) #statut_de_réfugié #renvois #expulsions
Abuses against Rwandan refugees in Uganda: Has Time Come for Accountability?
For many years, Rwandan refugees in Uganda have faced abuses, including arbitrary detention, forced return to Rwanda and attacks on their physical security, without any form of accountability. However, last Friday, 24 August, former Inspector-General of the Ugandan police, General Kale Kayihura, has been charged with aiding and abetting the kidnapping and repatriation of Rwandan refugees, amongst other charges. In October last year, other security officers had already been arrested and indicted under similar charges. Is it finally time for justice?
The case of Joel Mutabazi
Kayihura is accused of aiding and abetting the kidnapping of Rwandan refugees Joel Mutabazi, Jackson Karemera and Innocent Kalisa by Ugandan police officers. Six Ugandan police officers, one Rwandan security officer and one Congolese individual are on trial for their involvement in the abduction and forced return of Mutabazi. A senior police who had been arrested earlier in connection to this case has since been released.
Joel Mutabazi, a former bodyguard of Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, had been arrested in April 2010 in Rwanda and detained and tortured in military custody for his suspected links with opposition groups. After he was released in October 2011, Mutabazi fled to Uganda, where he was granted refugee status. In 2013, he was abducted from a UNHCR safe house near Uganda’s capital Kampala, and taken back to Rwanda. Mutabazi’s whereabouts were unknown for several days, until the Rwandan police stated that he was in their custody. UNHCR, which failed to protect Mutabazi, expressed its concern over the breach of the principle of non-refoulement and called for accountability.
In 2014, a Rwandan military court sentenced Mutabazi to life in prison, including for forming an armed group and for terrorism. His younger brother, Jackson Karemera, and another co-accused, Innocent Kalisa, also lived in Uganda before the trial and were themselves abducted back to Rwanda. They were sentenced respectively to four months and 25 years in prison. Karemera was rearrested after his release, his family hasn’t heard from him since. All three said during the trial they had been tortured in detention in Rwanda, but the court did not order an investigation into those allegations.
Abuses against Rwandan refugees
The illegal transfer of Mutabazi and his co-accused to Rwanda was not an isolated case. Over the years, including more recently, International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) has received several reports about threats, illegal arrests, attacks and forced returns of Rwandan refugees in Uganda. Many of such cases remain unreported, given the secrecy surrounding such abuses and the fear of reprisals, and are difficult to confirm. A few examples include:
In July 2010, Rwandan refugees were forcibly removed en masse from refugee settlements in south-western Uganda to Rwanda. Ugandan police officers used live rounds, wounding several in the process, to force refugees onto buses which dropped them in Rwanda.
In November 2011, Charles Ingabire, a Rwandan journalist, was murdered when he left a bar in Kampala. He was a fierce government critic who had obtained refugee status in Uganda. An investigation was opened, but to date, nobody has been charged for involvement in this crime.
In 2017, according to judicial documents, a Rwandan refugee was illegally detained for almost two months in Kireka police station in Kampala, and threatened with return to Rwanda, on the basis of his alleged involvement in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Rwanda and Uganda do not have an extradition treaty. He was never charged and was eventually released.
Multiple sources confirmed to IRRI that on 20 December 2017, five Rwandan nationals were arrested in Mbarara, and one in Kampala. They were detained incommunicado for several days and allegedly tortured. Five of them were driven to the border with Rwanda nine days later and deported. According to Uganda’s army spokesperson, one was not deported because of her refugee status, and remained in incommunicado detention.
In addition to abuses against refugees, there have been several allegations, in the past year, of abuses against Rwandan nationals residing in Uganda. According to several sources, two Rwandan citizens were arrested in Uganda, respectively on 9 November 2017 and 3 January 2018, and detained incommunicado before being sent back to Rwanda. The first says he was tortured, which was confirmed to IRRI by a source knowledgeable about the case on 24 January 2018: “He was beaten up and tortured… and dumped at the border with Rwanda. He couldn’t walk and barely could talk.” The other man also reported to the media that he was tortured before being taken to the border with Rwanda.
For none of these cases has there been any apparent effort to provide meaningful accountability. Other reports have been difficult to verify, but as a consequence of such events, Rwandan refugees in Uganda continue to fear for their safety. Rwanda and Uganda have had close but turbulent bilateral relations in recent years, and many connections remain between individuals within the countries security services. There have, however, been reports that relations between the two countries have deteriorated.
Many interpreted the decision by Uganda, in early 2018, not to invoke a cessation clause against the more than 15,000 Rwandan refugees still currently living in Uganda as an illustration of this dynamic. This cessation clause, if invoked, would have forced refugees who fled Rwanda before 31 December 1998 to return to Rwanda, reapply for refugee protection or acquire citizenship in their country of exile. Seven countries have already begun implementing the cessation clause.
Concerns about right to a fair trial
While the arrested officers have themselves been accused of involvement in human rights violations, their own right to a fair trial and lawful detention seemed to have also been in jeopardy since their arrest. The arrest of General Kale Kayihura seems to have violated legal provisions on judicial review and detention terms. According to judicial documents and interviews with several people knowledgeable of the case, at least one of the accused in the trial against senior police officials has been detained incommunicado and tortured, in an attempt to extract testimony against other senior figures. Court documents show that the court told a bail applicant to edit out details of torture, but on 31 January 2018 a judge ordered an investigation into torture allegations. There have also been concerns about the prosecution of civilian suspects in a military court, a common practice in Uganda, and about settling scores within the security apparatus.
These trials against former senior Ugandan security officials could send a welcome signal to Rwandan refugees that abuses against them will be no longer tolerated. But justice can only be done if arrests and trials are conducted in accordance with standards in Ugandan and international law. More efforts must be done to end ongoing abuses against Rwandan refugees, and bring all perpetrators to account.
Uganda’s refugee policies: the history, the politics, the way forward
Uganda’s refugee policy urgently needs an honest discussion, if sustainable solutions for both refugees and host communities are to be found, a new policy paper by International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) reveals.
The paper, entitled Uganda’s refugee policies: the history, the politics, the way forward puts the “Ugandan model” in its historical and political context, shines a spotlight on its implementation gaps, and proposes recommendations for the way forward.
Uganda has since 2013 opened its borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees from South Sudan, bringing the total number of refugees to more than one million. It has been praised for its positive steps on freedom of movement and access to work for refugees, going against the global grain. But generations of policy, this paper shows, have only entrenched the sole focus on refugee settlements and on repatriation as the only viable durable solution. Support to urban refugees and local integration have been largely overlooked.
The Ugandan refugee crisis unfolded at the same time as the UN adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, and states committed to implement a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). Uganda immediately seized this opportunity and adopted its own strategy to implement these principles. As the world looks to Uganda for best practices in refugee policy, and rightly so, it is vital to understand the gaps between rhetoric and reality, and the pitfalls of Uganda’s policy. This paper identifies the following challenges:
There is a danger that the promotion of progressive refugee policies becomes more rhetoric than reality, creating a smoke-screen that squeezes out meaningful discussion about robust alternatives. Policy-making has come at the expense of real qualitative change on the ground.
Refugees in urban areas continue to be largely excluded from any support due to an ongoing focus on refugee settlements, including through aid provision
Local integration and access to citizenship have been virtually abandoned, leaving voluntary repatriation as the only solution on the table. Given the protracted crises in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, this remains unrealistic.
Host communities remain unheard, with policy conversations largely taking place in Kampala and Geneva. Many Ugandans and refugees have neither the economic resources nor sufficient political leverage to influence the policies that are meant to benefit them.
The policy paper proposes a number of recommendations to improve the Ugandan refugee model:
First, international donors need to deliver on their promise of significant financial support.
Second, repatriation cannot remain the only serious option on the table. There has to be renewed discussion on local integration with Uganda communities and a dramatic increase in resettlement to wealthier states across the globe.
Third, local communities hosting refugees must be consulted and their voices incorporated in a more meaningful and systematic way, if tensions within and between communities are to be avoided.
Fourth, in order to genuinely enhance refugee self-reliance, the myth of the “local settlement” needs to be debunked and recognized for what it is: the ongoing isolation of refugees and the utilization of humanitarian assistance to keep them isolated and dependent on aid.
A New Deal for Refugees
Global policies that aim to resettle and integrate displaced populations into local societies is providing a way forward.
For many years now, groups that work with refugees have fought to put an end to the refugee camp. It’s finally starting to happen.
Camps are a reasonable solution to temporary dislocation. But refugee crises can go on for decades. Millions of refugees have lived in their country of shelter for more than 30 years. Two-thirds of humanitarian assistance — intended for emergencies — is spent on crises that are more than eight years old.
Camps are stagnant places. Refugees have access to water and medical care and are fed and educated, but are largely idle. “You keep people for 20 years in camps — don’t expect the next generation to be problem-free,” said Xavier Devictor, who advises the World Bank on refugee issues. “Keeping people in those conditions is not a good idea.” It’s also hard to imagine a better breeding ground for terrorists.
“As long as the system is ‘we feed you,’ it’s always going to be too expensive for the international community to pay for,” Mr. Devictor said. It’s gotten more and more difficult for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to raise that money; in many crises, the refugee agency can barely keep people from starving. It’s even harder now as nations turn against foreigners — even as the number of people fleeing war and violence has reached a record high.
At the end of last year, nearly 70 million people were either internally displaced in their own countries, or had crossed a border and become a refugee. That is the largest number of displaced in history — yes, more than at the end of World War II. The vast majority flee to neighboring countries — which can be just as badly off.
Last year, the United States accepted about 30,000 refugees.
Uganda, which is a global model for how it treats refugees, has one-seventh of America’s population and a tiny fraction of the wealth. Yet it took in 1,800 refugees per day between mid-2016 and mid-2017 from South Sudan alone. And that’s one of four neighbors whose people take refuge in Uganda.
Bangladesh, already the world’s most crowded major nation, has accepted more than a million Rohingya fleeing ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. “If we can feed 160 million people, then (feeding) another 500,00-700,000 …. We can do it. We can share our food,” Shiekh Hasina, Bangladesh’s prime minister, said last year.
Lebanon is host to approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees, in addition to a half-million Palestinians, some of whom have been there for generations. One in three residents of Lebanon is a refugee.
The refugee burden falls heavily on a few, poor countries, some of them at risk of destabilization, which can in turn produce more refugees. The rest of the world has been unwilling to share that burden.
But something happened that could lead to real change: Beginning in 2015, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees crossed the Mediterranean in small boats and life rafts into Europe.
Suddenly, wealthy European countries got interested in fixing a broken system: making it more financially viable, more dignified for refugees, and more palatable for host governments and communities.
In September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution stating that all countries shared the responsibility of protecting refugees and supporting host countries. It also laid out a plan to move refugees out of camps into normal lives in their host nations.
Donor countries agreed they would take more refugees and provide more long-term development aid to host countries: schools, hospitals, roads and job-creation measures that can help both refugees and the communities they settle in. “It looked at refugee crises as development opportunities, rather than a humanitarian risk to be managed,” said Marcus Skinner, a policy adviser at the International Rescue Committee.
The General Assembly will vote on the specifics next month (whatever they come up with won’t be binding). The Trump administration pulled out of the United Nations’ Global Compact on Migration, but so far it has not opposed the refugee agreement.
There’s a reason refugee camps exist: Host governments like them. Liberating refugees is a hard sell. In camps, refugees are the United Nations’ problem. Out of camps, refugees are the local governments’ problem. And they don’t want to do anything to make refugees comfortable or welcome.
Bangladesh’s emergency response for the Rohingya has been staggeringly generous. But “emergency” is the key word. The government has resisted granting Rohingya schooling, work permits or free movement. It is telling Rohingya, in effect, “Don’t get any ideas about sticking around.”
This attitude won’t deter the Rohingya from coming, and it won’t send them home more quickly. People flee across the closest border — often on foot — that allows them to keep their families alive. And they’ll stay until home becomes safe again. “It’s the simple practicality of finding the easiest way to refuge,” said Victor Odero, regional advocacy coordinator for East Africa and the Horn of Africa at the International Rescue Committee. “Any question of policies is a secondary matter.”
So far, efforts to integrate refugees have had mixed success. The first experiment was a deal for Jordan, which was hosting 650,000 Syrian refugees, virtually none of whom were allowed to work. Jordan agreed to give them work permits. In exchange, it got grants, loans and trade concessions normally available only to the poorest countries.
However, though the refugees have work permits, Jordan has put only a moderate number of them into jobs.
Any agreement should include the views of refugees from the start — the Jordan Compact failed to do this. Aid should be conditioned upon the right things. The deal should have measured refugee jobs, instead of work permits. Analysts also said the benefits should have been targeted more precisely, to reach the areas with most refugees.
To spread this kind of agreement to other nations, the World Bank established a $2 billion fund in July 2017. The money is available to very poor countries that host many refugees, such as Uganda and Bangladesh. In return, they must take steps to integrate refugees into society. The money will come as grants and zero interest loans with a 10-year grace period. Middle-income countries like Lebanon and Colombia would also be eligible for loans at favorable rates under a different fund.
Over the last 50 years, only one developing country has granted refugees full rights. In Uganda, refugees can live normally. Instead of camps there are settlements, where refugees stay voluntarily because they get a plot of land. Refugees can work, live anywhere, send their children to school and use the local health services. The only thing they can’t do is become Ugandan citizens.
Given the global hostility to refugees, it is remarkable that Ugandans still approve of these policies. “There have been flashes of social tension or violence between refugees and their hosts, mostly because of a scarcity of resources,” Mr. Odero said. “But they have not become widespread or protracted.”
This is the model the United Nations wants the world to adopt. But it is imperiled even in Uganda — because it requires money that isn’t there.
The new residents are mainly staying near the South Sudan border in Uganda’s north — one of the least developed parts of the country. Hospitals, schools, wells and roads were crumbling or nonexistent before, and now they must serve a million more people.
Joël Boutroue, the head of the United Nations refugee agency in Uganda, said current humanitarian funding covered a quarter of what the crisis required. “At the moment, not even half of refugees go to primary school,” he said. “There are around 100 children per classroom.”
Refugees are going without food, medical care and water. The plots of land they get have grown smaller and smaller.
Uganda is doing everything right — except for a corruption scandal. It could really take advantage of the new plan to develop the refugee zone. That would not only help refugees, it would help their host communities. And it would alleviate growing opposition to rights for refugees. “The Ugandan government is under pressure from politicians who see the government giving favored treatment to refugees,” Mr. Boutroue said. “If we want to change the perception of refugees from recipients of aid to economic assets, we have to showcase that refugees bring development.”
The World Bank has so far approved two projects — one for water and sanitation and one for city services such as roads and trash collection. But they haven’t gotten started yet.
Mr. Devictor said that tackling long-term development issues was much slower than providing emergency aid. “The reality is that it will be confusing and confused for a little while,” he said. Water, for example, is trucked in to Uganda’s refugee settlements, as part of humanitarian aid. “That’s a huge cost,” he said. “But if we think this crisis is going to last for six more months, it makes sense. If it’s going to last longer, we should think about upgrading the water system.”
Most refugee crises are not surprises, Mr. Devictor said. “If you look at a map, you can predict five or six crises that are going to produce refugees over the next few years.” It’s often the same places, over and over. That means developmental help could come in advance, minimizing the burden on the host. “Do we have to wait until people cross the border to realize we’re going to have an emergency?” he said.
Well, we might. If politicians won’t respond to a crisis, it’s hard to imagine them deciding to plan ahead to avert one. Political commitment, or lack of it, always rules. The world’s new approach to refugees was born out of Europe’s panic about the Syrians on their doorstep. But no European politician is panicking about South Sudanese or Rohingya refugees — or most crises. They’re too far away. The danger is that the new approach will fall victim to the same political neglect that has crippled the old one.
avec ce commentaire de #Jeff_Crisp sur twitter :
“Camps are stagnant places. Refugees have access to water and medical care and are fed and educated, but are largely idle.”
Has this prizewinning author actually been to a refugee camp?
Appreciating Uganda’s ‘open door’ policy for refugees
While the rest of the world is nervous and choosing to take an emotional position on matters of forced migration and refugees, sometimes closing their doors in the face of people who are running from persecution, Uganda’s refugee policy and practice continues to be liberal, with an open door to all asylum seekers, writes Arthur Matsiko
Is Uganda the best place to be a refugee?
The country’s unusual open policy gives refugees land, education and a chance to work – but instability in neighbouring nations is putting pressure on resources
Why Uganda is a model for dealing with refugees
Uganda’s population of some 500,000 refugees can work, vote and start businesses
Uganda farming classes transform refugees into entrepreneurs
Trained to expand their rice and pepper harvests, Congolese refugees in Uganda use earnings to start new businesses and become more self-reliant.
Uganda : An Oasis Of Light For Refugees Fleeing War
PAGRINYA REFUGEE SETTLEMENT, Uganda – Ayen looked directly into my eyes as she gripped her children’s hands tightly, calmly recounting the moment she was forced to flee her home in South Sudan in the middle of the night after rebels murdered her husband and eldest son in her presence.
The Reality Behind Uganda’s Refugee Model
Uganda has been hailed as a world leader in dealing with refugees. African Great Lakes expert David Kigozi argues that praise for progressive policies must be tempered with the harsher reality that many refugees actually experience in the country.
Is Uganda the world’s best place for refugees?
Once refugees themselves, Ugandans look to ‘return the good’ to people fleeing war in South Sudan by offering land and help
The refugee scandal unfolding in Uganda
Uganda, the country with the world’s fastest growing refugee burden, is failing to secure the help it needs to care for those forced across the border from South Sudan by war and hunger.
How can countries help refugees while also raising their GDP? Let them work.
Uganda is an eye-opening example of how displaced people can lift up a nation, say economics professor Paul Collier and refugee researcher Alexander Betts.
Ouganda. La générosité intéressée du pays le plus ouvert du monde aux réfugiés
L’Ouganda est le pays qui accueille le plus de réfugiés. Un million de Sud-Soudanais fuyant la guerre s’y sont installés. Mais cette noble intention des autorités cache aussi des calculs moins avouables : l’arrivée massive de l’aide internationale encourage l’inaction et la #corruption.
Refugees in Uganda to benefit from Dubai-funded schools but issues remain at crowded settlement
Dubai Cares is building three classrooms in a primary school at Ayilo II but the refugee settlement lacks a steady water supply, food and secondary schools, Roberta Pennington writes from Adjumani
FUGA DAL SUD SUDAN. LUIS, L’UGANDA E QUEL PEZZO DI TERRA DONATA AI PROFUGHI
Luis zappa, prepara dei fori per tirare su una casa in attesa di ritrovare la sua famiglia. Il terreno è una certezza, glielo ha consegnato il Governo ugandese. Il poterci vivere con i suoi cari non ancora. L’ultima volta li ha visti in Sud Sudan. Nel ritornare a casa sua moglie e i suoi otto figli non c’erano più. É sicuro si siano messi in cammino verso l’Uganda, così da quel giorno è iniziata la sua rincorsa. É certo che li ritroverà nella terra che ora lo ha accolto. Quella di Luis è una delle tante storie raccolte nei campi profughi del nord dell’Uganda, in una delle ultime missioni di Amref, in cui era presente anche Giusi Nicolini, già Sindaco di Lampedusa e Premio Unesco per la pace.
Modello Uganda? Dell’Uganda il mondo dice «campione di accoglienza». Accoglienza che sta sperimentando da mesi nei confronti dei profughi sud sudanesi, che scappano da uno dei Paesi più drammaticamente in crisi al mondo. Sono 4 milioni le persone che in Sud Sudan hanno dovuto lasciare le proprie case. Chi muovendosi verso altri Paesi e chi in altre regioni sud sudanesi. In questi ultimi tempi arrivano in Uganda anche persone che fuggono dalla Rep. Democratica del Congo.
As Rich Nations Close the Door on Refugees, Uganda Welcomes Them
President Trump is vowing to send the military to stop migrants trudging from Central America. Europe’s leaders are paying African nations to block migrants from crossing the Mediterranean — and detaining the ones who make it in filthy, overcrowded camps.
But Solomon Osakan has a very different approach in this era of rising xenophobia. From his uncluttered desk in northwest Uganda, he manages one of the largest concentrations of refugees anywhere in the world: more than 400,000 people scattered across his rural district.
He explained what he does with them: Refugees are allotted some land — enough to build a little house, do a little farming and “be self-sufficient,” said Mr. Osakan, a Ugandan civil servant. Here, he added, the refugees live in settlements, not camps — with no barbed wire, and no guards in sight.
“You are free, and you can come and go as you want,” Mr. Osakan added.
As many nations are securing their borders and turning refugees away, Uganda keeps welcoming them. And they keep coming, fleeing catastrophes from across this part of Africa.
In all, Uganda has as many as 1.25 million refugees on its soil, perhaps more, making it one of the most welcoming countries in the world, according to the United Nations.
And while Uganda’s government has made hosting refugees a core national policy, it works only because of the willingness of rural Ugandans to accept an influx of foreigners on their land and shoulder a big part of the burden.
Uganda is not doing this without help. About $200 million in humanitarian aid to the country this year will largely pay to feed and care for the refugees. But they need places to live and small plots to farm, so villages across the nation’s north have agreed to carve up their communally owned land and share it with the refugees, often for many years at a time.
“Our population was very few and our community agreed to loan the land,” said Charles Azamuke, 27, of his village’s decision in 2016 to accept refugees from South Sudan, which has been torn apart by civil war. “We are happy to have these people. We call them our brothers.”
United Nations officials have pointed to Uganda for its “open border” policy. While the United States, a much more populous nation, has admitted more than three million refugees since 1975, the American government settles them in the country after they have first been thoroughly screened overseas.
By contrast, Uganda has essentially opened its borders to refugees, rarely turning anyone away.
Some older Ugandans explain that they, too, had been refugees once, forced from their homes during dictatorship and war. And because the government ensures that spending on refugees benefits Ugandans as well, younger residents spoke of how refugees offered them some unexpected opportunities.
“I was a farmer. I used to dig,” Mr. Azamuke said. But after learning Arabic from refugees from South Sudan, he got a better job — as a translator at a new health clinic that serves the newcomers.
His town, Ofua, is bisected by a dirt road, with the Ugandans living on the uphill side and the South Sudanese on the downhill side. The grass-thatched homes of the Ugandans look a bit larger and sturdier, but not much.
As the sun began to set one recent afternoon, a group of men on the Ugandan side began to pass around a large plastic bottle of waragi, a home brew. On the South Sudanese side, the men were sober, gathered around a card game.
On both sides, the men had nothing but tolerant words for one another. “Actually, we don’t have any problems with these people,” said Martin Okuonzi, a Ugandan farmer cleaning his fingernails with a razor blade.
As the men lounged, the women and girls were still at work, preparing dinner, tending children, fetching water and gathering firewood. They explained that disputes did arise, especially as the two groups competed for limited resources like firewood.
“We’ve been chased away,” said Agnes Ajonye, a 27-year-old refugee from South Sudan. “They say we are destroying their forests.”
And disputes broke out at the well, where Ugandan women insist they should be allowed to skip ahead of refugees.
“If we hadn’t given you the land you live on, wouldn’t you be dying in Sudan?” said Adili Chandia, a 62-year-old refugee, recounting the lecture she and others got from a frustrated Ugandan woman waiting in line.
Ugandan officials often talk about the spirit of Pan-Africanism that motivates their approach to refugees. President Yoweri Museveni, an autocratic leader who has been in power for 32 years, says Uganda’s generosity can be traced to the precolonial days of warring kingdoms and succession disputes, when losing factions often fled to a new land.
This history of flight and resettlement is embedded in some of the names of local groups around western Uganda, like Batagwenda, which means “the ones that could not continue traveling.”
The government encourages the nation to go along with its policy by directing that 30 percent of foreign aid destined for refugees be spent in ways that benefit Ugandans nearby. So when money for refugees results in new schools, clinics and wells, Ugandans are more likely to welcome than resent them.
For Mr. Museveni, hosting refugees has given him relevance and political capital abroad at a time when he would otherwise have little.
A former guerrilla fighter who quickly stabilized much of his country, Mr. Museveni was once hailed as an example of new African leadership. He was relatively quick to confront the AIDS epidemic, and he invited back Ugandans of Indian and Pakistani descent who had been expelled during the brutal reign of Idi Amin in the 1970s.
But his star has fallen considerably. He has clung to power for decades. His security forces have beaten political opponents. Freedom of assembly and expression are severely curtailed.
Even so, Uganda’s openness toward refugees makes Mr. Museveni important to European nations, which are uneasy at the prospect of more than a million refugees heading for Europe.
Other African nations also host a significant number of refugees, but recent polls show that Ugandans are more likely than their neighbors in Kenya or Tanzania to support land assistance or the right to work for refugees.
Part of the reason is that Ugandans have fled their homes as well, first during the murderous reign of Mr. Amin, then during the period of retribution after his overthrow, and again during the 1990s and 2000s, when Joseph Kony, the guerrilla leader who terrorized northern Uganda, left a trail of kidnapped children and mutilated victims.
Many Ugandans found refuge in what is today South Sudan. Mark Idraku, 57, was a teenager when he fled with his mother to the area. They received two acres of farmland, which helped support them until they returned home six years later.
“When we were in exile in Sudan, they also helped us,” Mr. Idraku said. “Nobody ever asked for a single coin.”
Mr. Idraku has since returned the favor, loaning three acres to a South Sudanese refugee named Queen Chandia, 37. Ms. Chandia said the land — along with additional plots other Ugandans allow her to farm — has made all the difference.
Her homestead of thatched-roof huts teemed with children tending their chores, grinding nuts into paste and maize into meal. Ms. Chandia is the mother of a girl and two boys. But over the years, as violence hollowed out her home country, Ms. Chandia started taking in the orphaned children of relatives and friends. Now 22 children call her “mom.”
A refugee for nearly her entire life, Ms. Chandia arrived in Uganda as a young girl nearly 30 years ago. For years, she worried about being expelled.
“Maybe these Ugandans will change their minds on us,” she said, describing the thought that plagued her. Then one day the worry stopped.
But Mr. Osakan, the administrator who oversees refugee affairs in the country’s extreme northwest, is anxious. There is an Ebola outbreak over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr. Osakan fears what might happen if — or when — a refugee turns up in Uganda with the dreaded illness.
“It would destroy all the harmony between refugees and host communities,” he said, explaining that it would probably lead to calls to seal the border.
For now, the border is very much open, although the number of refugees arriving has fallen significantly. In one of the newer settlements, many of the refugees came last year, fleeing an attack in a South Sudanese city. But some complained about receiving too little land, about a quarter acre per family, which is less than previous refugees had received.
“Even if you have skills — in carpentry — you are not given a chance,” said one refugee, Simon Ludoru. He looked over his shoulder, to where a construction crew was building a nursery school. The schoolhouse would teach both local Ugandan and South Sudanese children together, but the workers were almost entirely Ugandan, he said.
At the construction site, the general contractor, Sam Omongo, 50, said he had hired refugees for the job. “Oh, yes,” he exclaimed.
“Not a lot, actually,” he acknowledged. “I have about three.” Mr. Omongo called one over.
“Are you a refugee?” Mr. Omongo asked the slight man.
“No, I’m from Uganda,” he said softly. His name was Amos Chandiga, 28. He lived nearby and owned six acres of land, though he worked only four of them. He had lent the other two to a pair of refugees.
“They asked me, and I gave it to them,” Mr. Chandiga explained. He patted his chest. “It comes from here, in my heart.”
Uganda: a role model for refugee integration?
Uganda hosts the largest refugee population in Africa and is, after Turkey and Pakistan, the third-largest refugee recipient country worldwide. Political and humanitarian actors have widely praised Ugandan refugee policies because of their progressive nature: In Uganda, in contrast to many other refugee-receiving countries, these are de jure allowed to work, to establish businesses, to access public services such as education, to move freely and have access to a plot of land. Moreover, Uganda is a pilot country of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). In this Working Paper the authors ascertain whether Uganda indeed can be taken as a role model for refugee integration, as largely portrayed in the media and the political discourse. They identify the challenges to livelihoods and integration to assess Uganda’s self-reliance and settlement approach and its aspiration towards providing refugees and Ugandan communities receiving refugees with opportunities for becoming self-reliant. Drawing on three months of field research in northern and southern Uganda from July to September of 2017 with a particular focus on South Sudanese refugees, the authors concentrate on three aspects: Access to land, employment and education, intra- and inter-group relations. The findings show that refugees in Uganda are far from self-reliant and socially integrated. Although in Uganda refugees are provided with land, the quality and size of the allocated plots is so poor that they cannot earn a living from agricultural production, which thus, rather impedes self-reliance. Inadequate infrastructure also hinders access to markets and employment opportunities. Even though most local communities have been welcoming to refugees, the sentiment has shifted recently in some areas, particularly where local communities that are often not better off than refugees feel that they have not benefitted from the presence of refugees....
Uganda has a remarkable history of hosting refugees, but its efforts are underfunded
Uganda has agreed to a request from the United States to temporarily accommodate 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan while Washington processes their applications to live in the US. The move underscores the reputation Uganda has of being progressive on refugee issues. Refugee expert Dr Evan Easton-Calabria provides insights into why.
When did Uganda start hosting refugees?
Uganda has a long history of hosting refugees. This started in the early 1940s with Polish refugees who fled from Nazi-occupied Europe. The Nakivale refugee settlement – formed in 1959 – in southwest Uganda is the oldest refugee camp in Africa.
Uganda also hosts huge numbers of refugees. In the mid-1950s almost 80,000 Sudanese refugees, fleeing the first civil war, sought refuge in the country. They were only the first of many waves of refugees from different neighbouring countries to arrive. Uganda has hosted significant numbers of refugees ever since.
Today, almost 1.5 million refugees live in Uganda, making it the top refugee-hosting country in Africa and one of the top five hosting countries in the world.
Its longstanding ‘open-door’ policy has benefited it both politically and financially, with hundreds of millions of donor funds provided each year for humanitarian and development projects. These target both refugees and locals. While Kenya, for example, has received Euros 200 million in humanitarian aid from the European Union since 2012, Uganda has received this much from the EU in just over four years.
Is the country more progressive towards refugees than its neighbours?
Uganda’s policies towards refugees have been hailed as progressive. It has even been called “the world’s best place for refugees”.
Refugees have the right to work and freedom of movement, thanks to Uganda’s 2006 Refugee Act and 2010 Refugee Regulations, which provide a strong legal and regulatory framework for refugee rights.
Refugees have the right to the same social services as Ugandans, including health care and free primary education. They are not confined to camps but can also live in urban areas. The country has, therefore, received a lot of positive attention for ‘fostering’ the self-reliance of refugees.
However, despite rights on paper in Uganda, refugees still struggle.
They are not legally recognised as refugees if they live in cities besides the capital, Kampala. As ‘self-settled’ urban refugees, they risk being misclassified as economic migrants. Lacking official refugee status (unless they have been registered in a settlement), urban refugees also often lack assistance.
Although refugees in Uganda are economically diverse – one study even identified over 70 different types of livelihoods activities by refugees in Uganda – for many in settlements, subsistence farming is their primary livelihood. But, despite plots of land being provided in settlements, many don’t have enough land to farm on and soil quality is often low. This means that, for many, farming is no longer a viable livelihood. This shows that liberal refugee policies, like those promoting self-reliance in Uganda, must be backed with adequate resources if they are to be more than just words on paper.
Comparatively, Uganda’s neighbours – such as Kenya and Ethiopia – have traditionally been more restrictive. Kenya relies on a system of encampment, where most refugees live in camps, and Ethiopia has only recently expanded its out-of-camp policy to all refugees and aslyum-seekers, although regulatory gaps remain. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that both are major refugee-hosting countries. They host far more refugees than many western (and wealthier) countries. Kenya hosts over half a million refugees, mainly from Somalia and South Sudan. Ethiopia hosts over 788,000 and is the third largest refugee-hosting country in Africa.
How effectively does Uganda manage its refugee community?
‘Effectiveness’ is an interesting word in this context. On one hand, Uganda provides an important foundation in terms of providing the legal infrastructure to allow many refugees to lead independent lives. But refugees also enter a challenging context: Uganda struggles to provide adequate services for its own citizens and unemployment is high. It has one of the world’s lowest rankings in the Human Capital Index.
In addition, the 2021 presidential election saw increased political and social unrest which has led to the violation of rights such as the freedom of assembly and expression for citizens and other residents, including refugees. While many Ugandans have welcomed refugees, there are increasing accounts of overburdened cities and strains on resources, like firewood, in some parts of the country.
The corruption of humanitarian aid is also a problem, with UNHCR Uganda accused of mismanaging tens of millions of dollars in 2016-2017. This illustrates the clear need for effective financial management so that refugees can actually be helped.
There is also another important question of responsibility. Despite the positive attention the international community has given the country, donor funds have not often matched the praise. If schools and health facilities are crowded, in part because of refugees, the responsibility to provide additional support should not fall on a refugee-hosting country such as Uganda alone. Limited resources mean limited management. As of June, the 2020-2021 Uganda Refugee Response Plan was only 22% funded, leaving a shortfall of US$596 million to cover all sectors ranging from protection to food security to sanitation.
Does it look likely that Uganda will continue in its role as a leading refugee destination?
Uganda has had a strong commitment to hosting refugees for over 70 years –- about the same length that the 1951 Refugee Convention has existed. A spirit of pan-Africanism and first-hand understanding of displacement by many Ugandans have all contributed to its willingness to host refugees. Its recent temporary accommodation of Afghan refugees indicates that it is interested in continuing this role.
That said, no country should host refugees without significant international support. Many refugee response plans, such as Uganda’s, remain significantly underfunded even as displacement rises and challenges – such as the COVID-19 pandemic – remain. Even though Uganda receives a significant amount of money, it’s not enough to support the number of people arriving as evidenced by a funding appeal by refugee response actors in June this year.
Mechanisms such as the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework offer a means to channel resources and increase collaboration on refugee hosting. But it is important to consider what displacement in Central, Eastern, and the Horn of Africa would look like if Uganda closed its borders. Uganda is making an effort in a neighbourhood where few other countries have the same enthusiasm.
Lessons from Tanzania’s Historic Bid to Turn Refugees to Citizens
Tanzania was lauded for offering citizenship to 200,000 Burundians, the largest-ever mass naturalization of refugees. But a political stalemate emerged between humanitarians and the government, leaving refugees stuck in the middle, explains researcher Amelia Kuch.
During Europe’s so-called migrant crisis of 2015, the Tanzanian government gave over 200,000 Burundian refugees a choice between repatriation – returning to Burundi – and naturalization – obtaining Tanzanian citizenship.
Given the choice, 79 percent of the refugees – 171,600 people – opted for Tanzanian citizenship. It is understood to be the first time in history any state has naturalized such a large group of refugees under the protection of the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) in a single move.
This group of refugees had fled Burundi following ethnic violence and killings in 1972 and now live in three rural settlements in Tanzania: Katumba, Mishamo and Ulyankulu. Since the 1970s, these settlements had transformed into towns: People made improvements to their homes, electricity poles were laid out and the local markets began to expand.
Research has shown that access to citizenship is an important means of resolving long-term displacement. Yet in most countries, granting citizenship to refugees is still politically unthinkable.
Tanzania has long been held up as a safe haven for refugees in the region, giving shelter to some 315,000 mainly Burundian and Congolese refugees. The naturalization of Burundian refugees was hailed as a model for progressive solutions to displacement. Yet it has led to a political stalemate between humanitarian organizations and the government, with the “refugees-turned-citizens” stuck in the middle.
Last month, the Tanzanian government halted the naturalization of another group of more recently arrived Burundian refugees and has since pulled out of the U.N.’s Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, citing lack of international funding.
During my research in the former Burundian refugee camps in Western Tanzania since 2014, I have spoken with many former refugees about the naturalization process, as well as NGO employees and government officials.
The difficulties in Tanzania are important to understanding the challenges of mass naturalization. It is not easy to turn a camp of refugees into a settlement of citizens. They also demonstrate how important it is for refugees to be able to hold both governments and humanitarian organizations accountable when things go wrong.
A Progressive Solution is Born
Negotiations around Tanzania’s naturalization policy began in 2007. They resulted in the Tanzania Comprehensive Solution Strategy (TANCOSS), which was adopted that year by the governments of Tanzania and Burundi in partnership with UNHCR. The agreement had three pillars: repatriation to Burundi, granting citizenship to those who opted to pursue naturalization and relocation of naturalized refugees from the settlements to other regions of Tanzania.
Major investments were promised to facilitate the process. Some $103 million was earmarked for relocation and integration of naturalized refugees in the 2011-15 United Nations Development Assistant Plan (UNDAP).
Eventually, the resettlement pillar was abandoned because of logistical problems and local resistance to resettling refugees. As a result, the new citizens were permitted to remain in the areas of the settlements in which they had lived for the past four decades. They can now vote in national elections and join political parties.
“Obtaining citizenship and being allowed to stay here brought peace into my heart. Before I lived in fear,” said one former refugee named Daniel.
Left in Limbo
Yet the initial TANCOSS agreement did not include any detailed plans for the refugee settlements after the naturalization of their residents. As a consequence, today the area remains in a governance limbo.
Every refugee camp had a settlement officer who represented the Ministry of Home Affairs and was responsible for governing the area. Settlement officers remain in power in all three settlements, and they continue to act as the highest authority and arbiters of conflicts.
“Naturalization certificates are important because they allow us to move, but opening of this space is crucial and still needs to happen,” said one church leader in Ulyankulu, referring to the full integration of the settlements. “As long as we still have a settlement officer and a closed space, the process is not complete.”
It remains unclear when and how a transition to local governance will take place and what rights to the land the new citizens have. The Tanzania Strategy for Local Integration Program for the New Citizens (TANSPLI), drafted in 2016, stipulates the creation of a master land use plan for the settlements and the surrounding areas, followed by the registration of villages in each settlement and provision of documentation for land rights.
However, the timeline for implementation is unclear. It “hinges on the availability of funding for the planned development projects,” according to Suleiman Mziray, who is assistant director of refugee services at Ministry of Home Affairs.
“People here don’t have ownership, you can be taken off your land at any time,” said one elderly man from Kaswa village in Ulyankulu settlement. “It’s like a marriage with no certificate.”
Lack of Accountability
Some of these challenges have led to a political stalemate between humanitarian organizations and the government, with each claiming the other has not kept its promises. Meanwhile, residents of the settlements suffer the consequences, as they wait for citizenship documents and investment in infrastructure like access to clean water.
Due to major delays in the distribution of citizenship certificates by the government, international funding for the promised development projects was redirected to other emergencies. Some of the aid was initially meant for resettlement, so once the refugees were allowed to stay in the former camps, funds were reallocated. Now that they are no longer refugees but citizens, they fall into a responsibility gap. “We have done our part,” a UNHCR official told me on condition of anonymity.
On the other side is the Tanzanian government: frustrated and disillusioned. They say they were promised that major investments will follow the distribution of citizenship but they never arrived. “We kept our part of the deal and distributed citizenship. But none of the promises materialized,” said an official at the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The government says it does not intend to invest in the settlements for now, as they are still hoping that international funding might come through eventually.
Earlier agreements left it ambiguous who would be responsible for implementing the administrative, developmental and social programs that were designed to turn former refugee settlements into properly integrated towns and villages. Without accountability mechanisms, it is hard for former refugees to hold humanitarian organizations or the government to their initial promises.
Three Lessons from Tanzania
Clearly, the design and implementation of the naturalization policy was far from perfect. The experience of Tanzania offers a few important lessons.
First, if similar mass naturalization policies are to be implemented elsewhere, it is key that they are drafted as binding documents, where the parties dedicated to the process (both national governments and international organizations) can be held accountable if they do not deliver on the promises and commitments made within an agreed timeline.
Second, such policies should be more carefully drafted, incorporating provisions on post-naturalization arrangements regarding local governance and land ownership.
Finally, despite the pitfalls and unforeseen challenges, my interviews with former refugees shows that naturalization is very important to them. They are acutely aware that citizenship is not a panacea, but firmly maintain that access to legal status provides them with a sense of security and the right to remain in the country, allaying fears of forced repatriation and deportation.
#naturalisation #citoyenneté #nationalité #modèle_tanzanien #Tanzanie #asile #migrations #réfugiés #réfugiés_burundais
v. aussi le #modèle_ougandais qui donne un lopin de terre aux réfugiés
How the world’s biggest refugee settlement sprang up in Uganda
In the process, #Bidi_Bidi, the world’s largest refugee settlement — the word “camp” is frowned upon and, besides, there are no fences — has sprung up in just eight months. Where last September there were just a few scattered huts belonging to local farmers, today there are an estimated quarter of a million South Sudanese who have fled what amounts to ethnic cleansing in their country’s once-peaceful Equatoria region.
L’Ouganda, première terre d’asile africaine
Face à l’afflux de plus d’un million de personnes chassées par la crise sud-soudanaise, l’ONU mise sur un modèle novateur de prise en charge des réfugiés.
Deux silhouettes se découpent dans le contre-jour, devant les massifs qui barrent la savane. Elles ont franchi le poste-frontière de Nimule, dernier obstacle entre l’Ouganda et le pays qu’elles veulent fuir : le Soudan du Sud, où fait rage, depuis fin 2013, l’une des guerres civiles les plus meurtrières de l’histoire contemporaine. Leurs traits émaciés se dessinent désormais. Ce sont deux adolescents, progressant vers le centre d’accueil des réfugiés, en silence. Comme en apesanteur.
Jusqu’au dernier moment, ils ont espéré résister au conflit qui ravage le plus jeune Etat de la planète, né en 2011 de la scission du Soudan. Las. « Entre les rumeurs d’attaques de l’armée [loyaliste, Armée populaire de libération du Soudan (APLS)] et le manque de nourriture, nous avons tout abandonné, à notre tour. Dans notre village, il ne reste que quatre familles. Contre une soixantaine auparavant », murmure Denis, 18 ans, hagard après trois jours d’échappée passés à guetter d’éventuelles embuscades dans la brousse. Lui et son frère vont être pris en charge par les autorités ougandaises et le Haut-Commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés (HCR). Le protocole est rodé : fouille au corps, évaluation médicale, préenregistrement… Dès le lendemain, ils seront transférés vers l’un des vingt et un camps de réfugiés que compte l’Ouganda.
Face à la plus grave crise de réfugiés en Afrique, l’Ouganda figure désormais en première ligne. Il est le pays qui en accueille le plus grand nombre sur le continent. En juillet 2016, Juba, la capitale sud-soudanaise, s’est embrasée : les combats opposent l’armée loyale au président Salva Kiir, principalement constituée de Dinka, aux forces rebelles de Riek Machar, l’ancien vice-président, composées en majorité de Nuer. Les habitants des régions méridionales des Equatorias ont aussitôt été happés dans l’engrenage des violences tribales. Cinq cent mille d’entre eux ont fui en Ouganda. Et l’exode se poursuit. Au total, plus de 1 million de Sud-Soudanais ont déjà trouvé refuge dans ce pays voisin et hospitalier.
Ni barbelés ni corridors
A une soixantaine de kilomètres du poste-frontière de Nimule, dans les collines qui verdoient en cette saison des pluies, des cases aux toits de chaume s’éparpillent aussi loin que le regard se porte. Sans ces quelques tentes frappées du logo onusien, on oublierait qu’il s’agit d’un camp de réfugiés, celui de Maaji III, dans le district d’Adjumani : ni barbelés ni corridors, les Sud-Soudanais sont logés au cœur des communautés locales. Les humanitaires préfèrent employer l’appellation « site d’installation », à celui de « camp », trop connoté.
C’est ici que s’est établi Joseph Lagu, 38 ans, ancien fermier de la région de Yei, dans le sud de son pays. « Des hommes de mon village ont été exécutés lors d’un raid de l’armée [loyaliste], des femmes ont été violées. Les soldats prétendaient que nous soutenions les rebelles. Aujourd’hui, nous sommes en sécurité », dit-il, soulagé. Et de se réjouir : « A notre arrivée, il y a un an, les autorités [ougandaises] nous ont fourni deux lopins de terre : l’un pour construire une case, l’autre – de 2 500 mètres carrés – pour cultiver. »
Selon une loi ougandaise de 2006, les réfugiés bénéficient, en plus de ces parcelles, de la liberté de travailler et de circuler dans le pays. Ils ont également accès aux services de santé et d’éducation au même titre que les Ougandais. Ce, malgré la faiblesse des infrastructures locales. Une stratégie donnant-donnant : cinq ans après leur installation, les réfugiés sont censés être autosuffisants. Ils s’intègrent alors dans le marché du travail, et contribuent à leur tour au développement du pays.
Cette approche inclusive a en partie inspiré le Cadre d’action global pour les réfugiés (CRRF), dirigé par le HCR. Ce nouveau modèle de gestion des crises migratoires à grande échelle est issu de la déclaration de New York pour les réfugiés et les migrants, dont les engagements ont été votés en septembre 2016 par l’ONU. « Sur l’ensemble des crises migratoires internationales, un réfugié conserve ce statut dix-sept ans en moyenne, et aucune perspective de paix ne se profile au Soudan du Sud, observe Isabelle d’Hault, conseillère auprès d’ECHO, l’office d’aide humanitaire de la Commission européenne et l’un des principaux donateurs. Il est donc essentiel d’améliorer la situation des réfugiés et des communautés d’accueil en renforçant leur autosuffisance. »
En matière de politique migratoire, l’Ouganda est le plus avancé des dix Etats pilotes d’Afrique et d’Amérique centrale dans la mise en œuvre du CRRF, lancé en mars 2017. Le projet est scruté. Il a valeur de test pour les Nations unies et les bailleurs de fonds. S’il fonctionne, ce modèle sera répliqué sur des crises à venir pour endiguer les migrations, notamment vers les pays occidentaux. Pour parvenir à cet objectif, la communauté internationale s’engage à partager les responsabilités avec les Etats débordés par des afflux massifs, à travers une aide financière accrue et la relocalisation des réfugiés les plus vulnérables dans des pays tiers.
Les marchés fourmillent
Joseph est membre d’un groupe de fermiers sud-soudanais et ougandais dont l’objectif est de renforcer l’autosuffisance des réfugiés. A l’orée du camp, certains défrichent, d’autres débitent des troncs. De nouveaux espaces agricoles émergent. Plus loin s’effectue la récolte de manioc, d’aubergines ou d’oignons. « Depuis l’arrivée des réfugiés, ma production a doublé », s’enthousiasme Robert Obulejo, mains calleuses agrippées à sa fourche. Outils et semences sont fournis par une ONG, le Conseil danois pour les réfugiés (DRC). Les terres sont mises à disposition par les communautés locales.
En compensation, des ONG bâtissent des infrastructures. Conformément à la loi ougandaise, 30 % de l’aide internationale est dévolue aux Ougandais. Au centre du camp, un marché en béton a remplacé les anciens étals à même le sol ; des écoles et un centre de soins vont être construits, et des tractopelles percent ou entretiennent des kilomètres de piste. Désormais, les acteurs du développement, tels que la Banque mondiale et l’Office d’aide au développement de la Commission européenne interviennent lors des prémices de la crise.
Cette manne est une aubaine pour ces régions excentrées, parmi les plus pauvres du pays. D’autant qu’elles portent les stigmates de deux décennies de violences. « Des habitants viennent juste de récupérer leurs terres. Ce sont d’anciens déplacés à la suite du conflit opposant l’armée ougandaise à la rébellion de l’Armée de résistance du Seigneur de Joseph Kony », détaille John Amabayo, vice-président du district. Tourné vers l’avenir, il se félicite : « Quand les Sud-Soudanais rentreront chez eux, ces infrastructures seront leur legs à notre pays. »
En attendant, les retombées économiques indirectes des centaines de milliers de dollars investis pour répondre à la crise ont sorti de sa torpeur la bourgade d’Adjumani, chef-lieu du district homonyme. Hôtels et maisons surgissent de terre pour loger les expatriés et les employés des ONG. Plus de deux mille emplois ont été créés : gardes, chauffeurs, etc. Les marchés fourmillent, des restaurants ouvrent et des bus affluent de la capitale.
Cette embellie a aidé les habitants à accepter la présence des réfugiés, bien qu’ils représentent 58 % de la population du district. La coexistence est encore facilitée par les liens tribaux entre les communautés. Des deux côtés de la frontière tracée par les colons britanniques en 1894, les mêmes ethnies sont présentes, principalement les Kakwa. « Nous partageons la même langue, la même histoire. Et nous étions habitués à aller et venir de chaque côté de la frontière pour commercer ou rendre visite à des proches », explique Joseph.
Malgré ces atouts, ce modèle d’autonomisation principalement fondé sur l’agriculture montre des limites. Dans le district voisin d’Arua, « rien ne pousse sur cette terre rocailleuse », s’emporte un Sud-Soudanais. Alors des réfugiés se nourrissent des graines qui étaient destinées à la culture. Quant aux parcelles, les autorités réduisent leur taille ou suppriment leurs attributions. Les espaces disponibles se sont raréfiés : en moyenne, ces douze derniers mois, 1 800 exilés arrivent chaque jour. Quant aux groupements agricoles, ils se révèlent inadaptés aux citadins et aux éleveurs, qui manquent d’alternative dans un pays miné par le chômage.
Ces difficultés sont exacerbées par la nature démographique de l’afflux de réfugiés. Lorsque les combats ont embrasé Yei, pour la énième fois, Janet Sande, 22 ans, s’est enfuie avec son fils de 3 ans. Et sont partis avec eux huit autres enfants : ceux de son frère et d’un voisin. L’attention et les soins que cette ancienne étudiante porte à ses protégés ne lui laissent pas le temps de cultiver la terre. Janet a fini par recevoir une aide de l’ONG Care pour construire son abri, mais, s’indigne-t-elle, « personne ne m’aide, pas même mes voisins, pour nourrir les petits ».
Son cas n’est pas isolé. Femmes et enfants représentent 86 % des réfugiés. « Des hommes ont été tués au Soudan du Sud ou continuent de combattre. D’autres refusent d’abandonner leurs champs à la période des moissons », précise Kennedy Sargo, officier de protection du HCR. Sans mari ou sans père, femmes et enfants sont victimes d’exploitations sexuelles. Certains se prostituent en échange de nourriture. Le nombre de vols a augmenté, la délinquance se propage.
Mais le plus grand défi reste le sous-financement chronique de la réponse humanitaire. Pour 2017, le HCR avait lancé un appel de fonds de 673 millions de dollars (568 millions d’euros). Seulement 32 % de cette somme ont été attribués. En juin, un sommet a été organisé à Kampala, la capitale ougandaise, réunissant les bailleurs de fonds. Sur les 2 milliards de dollars demandés pour les années à venir – montant qui inclut les 673 millions pour 2017 –, seuls 358 millions, sous forme de promesses de dons, ont été annoncés.
« Les pays occidentaux investissent peu dans la réponse à cette crise, bien moins que pour la crise syrienne, analyse le coordinateur d’une ONG qui souhaite garder l’anonymat. Les Sud-Soudanais en Ouganda ne représentent pas une menace migratoire pour l’Europe, ils sont trop pauvres pour tenter d’aller aussi loin. »
Sans surprise, la relocalisation des réfugiés vulnérables vers les pays tiers reste lettre morte. En 2017, le HCR avait besoin d’en déplacer 16 500. En 2016, onze Sud-Soudanais avaient été transférés. Pourtant, en vertu du principe de partage des responsabilités inscrit dans la convention de Genève de 1951 sur les réfugiés, les Etats ont l’obligation de s’entraider, rappelle Amnesty International, qui met en garde : « Manquer [à cette responsabilité] entraînerait une crise humanitaire bien plus grave que celle à laquelle nous assistons. »
A Bidi Bidi, 288 000 réfugiés
La magnitude de la crise se dévoile à mesure que la piste gagne Bidi Bidi. Cet ancien village, isolé dans une forêt primaire de la région voisine d’Arua, est devenu en un an l’un des plus grands camps de réfugiés au monde. Près de 288 000 Sud-Soudanais y sont dispersés sur des dizaines de kilomètres. Les besoins élémentaires y sont à peine couverts. « Les rations de 12 kg que nous recevons par mois s’épuisent au bout de deux semaines », relate Mawa Yosto, du comité du bien-être des réfugiés. A fortiori parce qu’« une partie est revendue pour acheter des biens de première nécessité comme du savon ». Le ton grave, il enchaîne : « Un adolescent vendait des petits sachets de sel dans la zone A. Plutôt que de rester ici le ventre vide, il s’est résigné à retourner au Soudan du Sud. Il s’est fait tuer. » Des dizaines de familles endeuillées vivent le même drame.
Le Programme alimentaire mondial (PAM), le bras nourricier de l’ONU, a été forcé de diminuer de moitié les rations distribuées, au mois de juin, faute de moyens. Ces coupes concernent l’ensemble des Sud-Soudanais et pas seulement les réfugiés installés depuis plus de trois ans, censés sortir progressivement des programmes d’aides. Pour Médecins sans frontières (MSF), « la pénurie alimentaire pourrait transformer cette situation en urgence médicale ». La malnutrition est désormais une « préoccupation majeure ».
L’accès à l’eau aussi, alerte l’ONG. Les volumes disponibles atteignent à peine le standard minimal du HCR : 15 litres par personne et par jour en situation d’urgence. « On ne sait jamais si on pourra boire le lendemain », se désole une réfugiée, un jerrican à ses pieds dans la file d’attente d’une fontaine. Pompée dans le Nil Blanc, l’eau traitée est acheminée par un onéreux ballet de camions-citernes qui s’embourbent dans des pistes inondées de pluies. Forages et pipelines pallient progressivement ce système. « A un rythme insuffisant », s’inquiète une responsable. La saison sèche approche.
Le système éducatif est débordé. « L’école est au fondement de la connaissance. Mais que pouvons-nous transmettre aux élèves ? », interroge, faussement candide, un enseignant de la zone C. Le nombre d’élèves atteint 600 par classe dans son école. Jusqu’à 2 000 dans d’autres. Les enfants accourent pieds nus en classe, « le ventre vide ». Ni pupitre ni matériel pédagogique ne sont disponibles dans cette école partagée par les communautés.
Les populations locales montrent des signes de colère face aux services éducatifs et de santé jugés défaillants. Barrages routiers, acheminement de l’aide suspendu ou menaces contre des expatriés, des manifestants protestent contre l’augmentation des prix et pour l’amélioration de leurs conditions de vie. L’octroi d’emplois par les ONG à des Ougandais originaires d’autres régions alimente aussi les griefs. En mai, World Vision s’est ainsi fait expulser du district de Moyo par les autorités locales. L’environnement aussi subit une pression insoutenable et les ressources naturelles disparaissent. « Des Ougandais nous molestent quand nous collectons du bois pour la cuisine ou les constructions, s’inquiète Jennifer Dodoraia, 60 ans. Ils nous disent : “Ce pays ne vous appartient pas, rentrez chez vous !”. »
Ces tensions, les sages tentent de les désamorcer lors de médiations publiques. A l’issue de l’une d’elles, à l’ombre d’un manguier dans le camp de Maaji, Paulino Russo, chef du conseil des anciens, invective ses concitoyens : « Soyez patients et souvenez-vous : il y a trente ans, c’est nous qui fuyions la guerre civile et partions chez nos frères soudanais. Demain, nous pourrions être des réfugiés à nouveau. »