Uganda will not tire from opening its doors to the restless seeking humanitarian assistance despite the challenges this presents, President Yoweri Museveni said on Friday. He told delegates at a Solidarity Summit on Refugees that the country’s kindness to refugees dated many decades back and it was not about to change.
The Solidarity Summit which was co-hosted by the President along with UN Secretary General Antonio Gueterres at Speke Resort in Munyonyo sought to mobilize up to USD 2bn that Uganda needs in the next one year to provide for refugees.
But Museveni sent a message of relief to the over 1.2 millions refugees currently in Uganda saying; “We have been dealing with refugees for millennia. Our culture knew how to deal with it using a dynamic but temporary approach.”
“It’s not that difficult to coexist with refugees because the entire of the African population is comprised of only 4 linguist groups,” he added. Having partly blamed the permanent nature of refuge which has in recent years become common, the President said that the spirit of Pan African ideological orientation has enabled Africans to continue coexisting despite of borders drawn by colonialism.
“With the help of the international community, we shall manage like we have always done,” he told about 500 delegates including Heads of State, diplomats, development partners, Ministers, and government officials.
President Museveni’s NRM government has gained widespread international praise for its progressive policies on refugee protection and management. Unlike other countries, Uganda has established a model that allocates land to refugees, enabling them to sustain themselves by engaging in economic activities.
He used the summit to call on the international community to support the development of infrastructure for the communities hosting refugees as a way of rewarding their generosity.
“Host communities should also be rewarded especially in road infrastructure which are no longer enough to cope with the numbers. I know UNHCR doesn’t have capacity but let’s work together to lobby those who have money,” Museveni.
In Yumbe and Isingiro districts, where Nakivaale and Bidi Bidi refugee camps are situated, Museveni particularly pointed out the need to quickly upgrade the two marram roads of Moyo-Yumbe-Koboko and Kabingo-Rugaaga-Rakai to bitumen surface.
Earlier, the UN chief Antonio Gueterres had appreciated Uganda’s “exemplary refugee policy” that allows refugees to share schools, health centres with the locals and enabling them to live normal lives.
“Even today when they receive the largest refugee flow over the past years, Uganda remains a symbol of integrity of the refugees that unfortunately hasn’t been respected anywhere else in the world,” Gueterres said.
Having noted some of the challenging impact that the refugee influx has caused to the Uganda government, the refugees themselves and the host communities, the Secretary General urged the international community to step up their support.
A total of USD 358.3 million was pledged at the same summit by different countries, individuals and organizations to assist finance Uganda’s humanitarian needs.