today's Pick
Govt, human rights activist clash over status of Kampala refugees
Publish Date: Apr 11, 2014
Govt, human rights activist clash over status of Kampala refugees
Congolese refugees in Uganda
  • mail
  • img

By David Lumu and Damali Kisakye

Government and human rights activists have clashed over the status of urban refugees.

This counter-accusation emanates from the findings of a report released by the Refugee Law Project, which states that refugees in Kampala are discriminated and denied opportunities for a better life.

According to the report, these refugees from Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi and DR. Congo, have been reduced to societal rejects. To arrest their “psychosocial challenges” urgent intervention is needed, according to experts from the Makerere University Refugee Law Project think-tank.

“Contrary to the view that any refugee who chooses to live in an urban area does not require support, the findings further demonstrate that those who live in urban areas also require assistance,” said Dr. Chris Dolan, the Director of the Refugee Law Project.

But government insists that it can only extend services to refugees in gazetted areas.

David Apollo Kazungu, the commissioner for refugees in the Office of the prime Minister told New Vision that the category of urban refugee, especially those who stay in Kampala comprises of people who have the refugee status but decide to live on their own.

“Refugees in urban centers remain recognized as refugees who decided to live on their own. They retian the refugee status but government and UNHRC doesn’t cater for them. Now, government intervention is for those in gazetted areas. If they want help, they should go back to gazzetted areas,” Kazungu said.

A total of 153 refugee women and girls were selected and requested to participate in the study, which was conducted in 2013. They considered the vulnerable groups of girls, young women, women with children out of rape, elderly women, unaccompanied minors and survival sex workers.

“Young women feel a lack of opportunities for a better life. Women and girls with disabilities have concerns about inclusion in, and accessing of, mainstream services available for refuges. Women with HIV\AIDs need assistance with medical care,” the report notes.

To earn a living, these refugees, the report, which highlights major challenges that refugee women and girls face in Uganda, notes that women and girls from DRC, Rwanda and Burundi usually vend Bitengi [locally made clothes], shoes and jewelry for survival.

But sometimes their products are confiscated by KCCA officials and some Ugandans, who threaten them with racist slogans such as “you Somali leave our businesses alone” and that when they report to police at Old Kampala station “authorities ignore reports of rapes, beatings and robberies”.

However, police at Old Kampala said that the challenges these refugees face are every day issues that even Ugandans go through.

“These are general problems face by even Ugandans. Their challenge is both ideological and attitude. When it is raining you take shelter. When the owner of the house opens the door and you enter, you become a refugee in that house. So, while there, you abide with the rules. You don’t go into the bedroom without seeking permission from the owner. Refugees in Kampala are inquisitive, they go to the bedroom of the owner without seeking permission,” said Enock Tumwesige, the community liaison police officer at old Kampala police station.

The study was conducted in Uganda’s capital city. The study focused on self-settled urban refugee women and girls in Kampala. In 2011, 35,000 urban refugees were registered with the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). Out of these, 50% are females and 70% are children under the age of 18 years.

The report calls upon government, human rights bodies, city authorities and other aid agencies to address the problems of these vulnerable girls and women by establishing a resource base.

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
LIVE: Uganda hosts Pope Francis
Live text commentary, pictures and updates as Pope Francis makes his first Ugandan visit....
Pope Francis has asked Catholic religious leaders to pray for him as he serves the church....
Police issue security guidelines for Papal visit
Police have issued security guidelines for Pope Francis visit to Uganda....
450 health experts, 38 ambulances for Pope
The ministry of health has deployed over 400 health personnel to handle any emergency that may arise during the Pope's visit....
Pope denounces radicalisation, attacks
Pope Francis on Thursday denounced radicalisation of young people and "barbarous attacks" carried out in the name of religion during the first leg of his three-nation Africa tour....
Pope Francis Wednesday evening got a rare request from President Uhuru Kenyatta who sought special prayers to help him deal with corruption in the country....
Is Uganda ready for the pope's visit?
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter