By Sarah Mazirwe – Kampala, Uganda, Wednesday, January 22, 2020.
Over 500 refugees have entered Uganda fleeing ethnic clashes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They crossed through the Zombo district in North-Western Uganda, 455 km northwest of Kampala, the country’s capital.
They started arriving on Thursday and most of them are staying with their relatives along the Uganda-DRC border. A team from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) of Uganda and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said they are yet to visit the district to ascertain the number of refugees that entered Uganda.
Solomon Osakan, the refugee desk officer at OPM in Arua District said about 50 refugees had already reported to their office. In DRC, the tribal crashes are between the Lendu, Alur, and Bagegere in areas of Muvaramu, Gobu, and Lo in Bunia District, in the northeastern part of DRC.
Alphie Bekanda, while speaking to Ugandan’s Newspaper New Vision said she left with her family of four to Uganda, leaving her husband behind, who refused that he would take care of their property.
“When we saw the situation was tense, we just ran on foot on Friday,” she said.” Uganda has internationally been recognized for its friendly policies that provide rights to the refugees and is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa.
According to the UNHCR report of October 2019, Uganda is a home of about 1.3 million refugees, most of them from South Sudan with 854,859, contributing 62.8% of all the refugees in Uganda, followed by DRC with 389,276 refugees. Other common refugees come from Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
The country has been widely praised for the freedoms it allows its refugees, who are given houses; land to grow food, access to education and the right to work and travel within Uganda. Uganda’s law and regulations grant refugees rights to documentation, social services, freedom of movement, work or business.
The National Development Plan II provides for specific interventions to improve their livelihood and create an enabling environment for refugees to live in safety, dignity, and harmony. Humanitarian specialists approve Uganda’s open-door refugee policy as the most generous in the world.
The government’s strategy integrates refugee issues into its national planning framework. Uganda’s refugee policy warranties freedom of movement and the right to employment, education, and health, as well as the right to start a business.
The government also provides refugees plots of land so they can farm and construct shelters. It empowers refugees to become economically self-reliant while granting them the same rights that citizens enjoy.