Uganda refugee policy is model

by Ronald Ssekandi ADJUMANI, Uganda (Xinhua) — When fighting started in South Sudan on July 7, Richard Odego fled to Uganda leaving behind all his assets. All he wanted to do is to save his life and family from the raging war.

Without any border restrictions, Odego crossed into Uganda and is now at Nyumanzi Transit Center waiting to be resettled in a refugee camp.

Like thousands of refugees in Uganda, Odego will be resettled on a piece of land which he will cultivate food instead of entirely depending on relief aid.

It is this open refugee policy that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says should be used as a model of refugee management across the global.

Hilary Onek, Uganda’s minister for refugees and disaster preparedness, while on a visit with the UNHCR head Filippo Grandi here earlier this week at one of the camps hosting South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda, said the policy has been remodeled.

Onek said Uganda, supported by the UN and other donor agencies, has started a project dubbed Refugee and Host Population Empowerment (ReHoPE).

The five-year 350 million U.S. dollar project aims at empowering refugees to become self-reliant and reduce their dependence on humanitarian.

Onek said refugees have assets, skills and capabilities that can be tapped to support themselves, and later on, transferred to their countries of origin when they return home.

“We want to turn this human resource into a productive force.

“When they become productive and even start earning money that will reflect on our economy,” he said.

He said the refugees will engage in a number of livelihood strategies, both in agricultural and non- agricultural sectors, in bid for them to be self-reliant.

The refugees will be clustered in one area, and the rest of the land will be opened up for mechanized farming.

The refugees would then share the proceeds from the farming.

As funding to humanitarian efforts dwindle, experts argue that Uganda’s approach would be one of the key alternatives to adopt in refugee management and response in the longer term.

Grandi said learning from Uganda, there are global discussions on how to integrate humanitarian emergency response with long-term development, for the benefit of not only refugees but also their host communities.

He said the ReHoPE project is viable but needs funding.

He said urged the rich countries to also give equal attention to humanitarian crises in Africa and other less developed places.

He said most of the rich countries focus on high profile crises and those near their boundaries.

Grandi said he will front Uganda’s refugee policy at the forthcoming UN meeting on refugees and migrants scheduled later this month.

At the end of last year, Uganda was the eighth-largest refugee hosting country in the world.

The country hosts over 560,000 refugees and asylum seekers, according to UNHCR figures.

Already in 2016, it has received an estimated 163,000 new arrivals fleeing from war and human rights violations in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and elsewhere.

Uganda dreams of beating 38-year Africa Cup of Nations jinx

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) — Geoffrey Massa wakes up every morning to light exercises before joining the rest of the team in the afternoon for general training.

Under the scorching sun, the young lads sweat profusely but their coach, Serbian born Milutin Sredojevic, shouts ‘Harder’ reminding them that the team has to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) after a 38-year jinx.

The last time Uganda appeared at the continent’s biggest football showpiece was in 1978 in Ghana when they lost to the hosts during the final.

Uganda will have another chance to try and solve the puzzle if they can conjure up a positive result against visiting Comoros on Sept. 4.

The game will also have lots of meaning as Uganda are the only team in the east and central African region with a chance of making it to the 2017 Afcon competition in Gabon.

“This is the time we should prove a point and make history,” Massa, who is the captain of the team told Xinhua shortly after training.

All that the team needs in this Afcon qualifier is a win in its Group D tie and hope that Group leaders Burkina Faso can draw against Botswana.

A win for Burkina Faso and a win for Uganda could also still see coach Sredojevic’s team qualify for being among the best two second placed teams.

“That match looks easy but it is a very difficult game because it will put players and fans under pressure,” Tom Lwanga, who was part of the Cranes team that appeared in the 1978 Afcon event, told Xinhua.

The former defender noted that winning against Comoros will need a lot of motivation on and off the pitch.

“Some of us are very eager to see the national team qualify again when we are still alive,” said ex-goalkeeper Paul Ssali who guided Uganda to the 1978 Afcon final.

The country’s football federation has already earmarked a cash reward of 10,000 U.S. dollars per player if the team qualifies.

“We have put in place a motivating aspect with every member of the squad to get 10,000 dollars if they qualify for the tournament,” said Uganda FA Chief Executive Officer Edgar Watson.

After two wins against Botswana and another away to Comoros together with a draw against Burkina Faso, Uganda has what it takes to book a ticket to Gabon for the 2017 Afcon.

The likes of Tony Mawejje, Massa, Godfrey Walusimbi, Emmanuel Okwi and goalkeepers Denis Onyango and Robert Odonkara will be expected to use their experience to push the team which has previously missed out narrowly to qualify on two occasions.

With Uganda chasing a place in the 2017 Afcon, the teams that have already qualified include Algeria, Morocco, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Egypt, Ghana, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Cameroon.

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