Rwanda + 1 more

Uganda: Govt to give land to refugees

By Patrick Jaramogi

UGANDA is set to become the first country in Africa to offer free land to refugees following the approval of the Refugee Bill.

Cabinet earlier approved the Bill that was passed by Parliament last week amidst controversies and bad sentiments.

Minister for disaster preparedness and refugees Lt. Gen. Moses Ali was quoted in the rwandan press as saying, "Uganda wishes to improve the standard of living of refugees in respect to international status.

"Uganda will be the first country in Africa to offer free land to refugees once Parliament approves the Bill."

He said the policy was generous "but they are human beings".

"It is even inhumane to call them refugees. Today, they are refugees but tomorrow it could be us (Ugandans)," he said.

He said the refugees would own small pieces of land in addition to the rations they received.

Although the Ugandan and Rwandan governments and the UN refugee agency have over the last three years engaged in the repatriation of Rwandan refugees, many have opted to remain in the country.

So far only 4,000 of the 25,000 Rwandan refugees that Uganda has been hosting in the settlement camps of Nakivale, Oruchinga and Kyaka II, have been repatriated.

Uganda presently accommodates over 250,000 refugees from Sudan, Rwanda, DR Congo and Somalia.

Others are from Kenya and Ethiopia. The new Refugee Act repeals the one of 1962, which Moses Ali said was 'too British'. It emphasises observation of human rights.

However, Ali said the 'comfortable environment' the refugees were living in had discouraged them from returning to their respective countries.

He said, "We recently sent back 500 Rwandan refugees under voluntary repatriation but they had instead returned to Uganda."