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Speaker Kadaga Slams International Community Over Refugees

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has criticized the international community for failing to make good their financial contributions to support refugees in Uganda as they had pledged during the Kampala Solidarity Summit on Refugees in 2017.

Addressing the 10th Conference of Speakers of African Parliaments and Senates at the Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, South Africa, on Tuesday, 06 August 2019, Kadaga said that of the US$15 million that was projected to be collected at the summit, only US$540,000 was realized.

“We had a solidarity summit in Uganda with all the world’s big names and leaders from the biggest economies but it was quite shocking when such leaders pledged very little sums of money and later even failed to fulfil the pledges,” she said.

Uganda, being the second biggest refugee hosting country in the world and the first in Africa, was selected to host the refugee summit attended by world leaders and technocrats who included the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) June 2018 report shows that Africa has the highest number of forced migrants in the world.  The continent accounted for nearly one third of the world’s 68 million forced migrants, including 6.3 million refugees and 14.5 million internally displaced persons.

Host countries continue to shoulder the responsibility of and facilitating refugees’ access to basic needs. However, this reduces the resources and resilience of the host communities.

“Settling of refugees comes with a cost to our people because there is a lot of pressure on the local population to share facilities. In one of our districts of Adjumani, 50 per cent of the population is made up of refugees and so there is pressure on water, schools, health facilities and the environment and this is very costly to the Uganda government,” Kadaga said.

Speaker Kadaga requested the UNHCR to build permanent structures such as health centres and schools in the refugee settlements as a stopgap to support host communities that have co-existed with refugees in the event that they leave.

Kadaga proposed that for refugee host countries, there should be inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms to bring together the government, international, local and civil society organisations to address the refugee issue from a wider perspective.

“I want to confirm that refugees living in Uganda are not in camps but settlements, which gives them freedom of movement, access to social service and employment,” Kadaga told the Speakers.

The Speaker of the Algerian Parliament, Slimane Chenine, said the increased armed conflicts on the continent had worsened the refugee problem over the last two years.

“To resolve this problem, my country has always proposed a holistic approach that is balanced and will require solidarity based on human rights, sovereignty and national security,” said Chenine.

In his presentation, George Kachio, the UNHCR Representative for Southern Africa revealed that over 100,000 Africans leave the continent every year for Europe.

Speaking as chief guest, the President of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), Gabriela Cuevas Barron, called on countries of the AU to work together in regard to development, gender equality, youth empowerment, fighting terrorism, climate change, migration and refugees issues.

“The safest countries in the world are those practicing democracy. We have the power to change the world and we need to give results to our people,” Barron said and signaled out Kadaga for aggressively advocating for an IPU President that could work with Africa.

The two-day Speaker’s conference is being held under the theme, “Finding durable solutions to forced migration to accelerate integration and development in Africa: the role of National and Regional Parliaments.

Over 90 per cent of African countries are party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and have passed laws for its implementation.

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