To Be or Not to Be: Urban Refugees in Kampala

By Bernstein, Jesse; Okello, Moses Chrispus | Refuge, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

To Be or Not to Be: Urban Refugees in Kampala


Bernstein, Jesse, Okello, Moses Chrispus, Refuge


Abstract

In Uganda, refugee policy and programming is focused almost exclusively on providing protection and assistance to refugees residing in rural settlements. While international law allows refugees the right to freedom of movement and choice of residence, Ugandan legislation restricts refugees' residency to rural settlements, subjecting those who wish to live outside of settlements and in urban centres to severe restrictions. This study sheds light on the reasons refugees choose to reside in Kampala as opposed to rural settlements and the challenges they endure while attempting to sustain and support themselves. Research findings indicate that at all stages of exile, refugees in Uganda are put under pressure, either implicitly or explicitly, to relocate to settlements. The lack of progressive thinking and hence over-reliance on settlements as the mainstay of refugee protection and assistance has hampered reforms of refugee policy and hindered the broader involvement of municipal authorities in responding to protection and assistance needs of refugees in urban areas. Research findings suggest that many refugees have talents, skills, and abilities which would enable self-sufficiency in Kampala and other urban areas. However, these capabilities are currently undermined by a refugee regime which only promotes self-reliance in rural settlements. In an effort to enhance refugees' overall human security and to support their own efforts to become independent and self-reliant, this paper asserts that refugee policy in Uganda should be reformed to support refugees' decisions to choose their own places of residence, instead of restricting them to rural settlements.

Resume

En Ouganda, la politique, ainsi que la programmation, a l'egard des refugies est centree presque entierement autour de la protection et l'assistance accordee aux refugies vivant dans les zones d'installations rurales. Bien que le droit international accorde aux refugies la liberte de mouvement et de choix de reidence, la legislation Ougandaise restreint la reidence des refugies aux zones d'installations rurales, en imposant des restrictions severes a ceux qui veulent vivre a l'exterieur des zones d'installations ou dans les centres urbains. Cette etude met en lumiere les raisons pour lesquelles les refugies choisissent de vivre a Kampala, par opposition aux zones d'installations rurales, et les defis qu'ils subissent dans leur lutte pour se nourrir et subvenir a leurs propres besoins. Les recherches indiquent que pendant toute la duree de l'exil, les refugies en Ouganda subissent des pressions, implicites ou explicites, pour qu'ils s'etablissent dans les zones d'installation. Le manque de raisonnement progressiste, d'ou une trop grande dependance sur les zones d'installations comme pilier pour fournir protection et assistance aux refugies, a entrave les reformes dans la politique l'egard des refugies, et a empehe une implication plus poussee des autorites municipales pour repondre aux besoins de protection et d'assistance des refugies en milieu urbain. Les resultats des recherches donnent a penser que beaucoup de refugies possedent des talents, des competences et des aptitudes, qui pourraient leur permettre d'etre autonomes a Kampala et dans d'autres zones urbaines. Cependant, ces aptitudes sont actuellement entravees par un regime de refugie qui ne prone l'autonomie que dans les zones d'installations rurales. Dans un effort pour ame liorer la securite humaine generale des refugies et pour soutenir leurs propres efforts pour devenir independants et autonomes, cet expose affirme que la politique l'egard des refugies en Ouganda dolt etre reformee pour soutenir les decisions des refugies de choisir eux-memes leur lieu de residence, au lieu de les restreindre aux zones d'installations rurales.

1. Background

Uganda is generally known for its "generosity" to refugees. This perceived benevolence is based on Uganda's long history of hosting refugees and the practice of parcelling out land to them, as a means of enhancing refugee protection and livelihoods, and an avenue through which refugees can regain a semblance of normalcy and in the short term be self-reliant as they await a durable solution.

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