Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Kubwa Habari kutoka Uganda

 Some good news out of Kampala Uganda today.

" KAMPALA, 21 June 2012 (IRIN) - The Ugandan government says it is in discussions to legalize and grant naturalization to thousands of refugees who fled into the country in the 1960s and 1990s, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

At an event in the capital, Kampala, to commemorate World Refugee Day on 20 June, Stephen Mallinga, Uganda's Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, said the government had set up a committee that included refugees and humanitarian agencies to discuss the mechanisms for naturalization.


"These are refugees who... have lost touch with their countries of origin. Naturalization of these cases is one possible solution and discussions are underway in this direction," he said. "The naturalization of these refugees will mean their stay in Uganda will not be illegal. They will be Ugandans who are entitled to live and work in Uganda and have a productive life." 


It is actually a win win for Uganda and the refugees. Giving legal rights will improve the employment prospects for these people in the real economy.

The picture is unfortunate as this woman I suspect is a recent refugee from the Congo.


" He said the refugees eligible for naturalization would be those who have been in the country for lengthy periods and have no interest in returning to their countries of origin. Most of those matching these criteria were originally Congolese and Rwandan.

Uganda would become the second East African nation to naturalize refugees - in 2010 Tanzania naturalized more than 162,000 Burundians who fled their homeland in 1972.


Mary Cifende Anganze, a Congolese refugee representative, welcomed the minister's announcement. "It will be a big milestone in the lives of those who qualify for the citizenship. They will have new opportunities in life," she said.


"This is a very good gesture by the government. It's really a humanitarian act by Uganda. These people who will naturalized will be integrated with the local community and live together as one," said Mohammed Abdri Ada, a representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) in Uganda. "In Europe, it's basically supposed to take five years. But in Africa, it takes about 30 to 40 years for one to be granted citizenship." 


I have an interest in this.  Significant Other's  sister and three of her nieces are recent refugees in Kampala as was she and her nephew and niece who live here now. The Congolese community in Auckland all have missing family members.

" The exercise would contribute to solving the challenge of Uganda's heavy caseload of 183,148 refugees and asylum seekers. According UNHCR statistics from 1 June 2012; the country hosts 104,686 Congolese, 22,786 Somalis, 19,406 Sudanese, 16,160 Rwandans, 9,475 Burundians and 6,734 Eritreans. There are also 2,124 Ethiopians, 1,640 Kenyans and 137 others. "

New Zealand take in 700 refugees a year and the figures above illustrate the scale of the problem, it is worth reflecting on the wealth of Uganda, Tanzania and New Zealand.

" He pointed out that the country faced large gaps in funding, while the number of refugees continued to rise, saying, "I appeal to the international community to mobilize the requisite resources in order for Uganda to meet the protection needs of these refugees." 

We should help. I am part of the Congolese Auckland community, they are fantastic citizens.

On a slightly comic note I discovered google translate and have replied in Swahili to a couple of friends in the community by text. After initial disbelief  they are now texting me in Swahili I am sure my blackberry can deal with this but I just don't know how. The next hour will be taken up with translating into English some texts  then replying in Swahili.

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