The Deplorable Living Conditions of the Urban Refugees
In arguably one of his best records, God Bless the Women, Lucky Dube sings, “Even when times are so hard, they are so cool, calm and collected – they don’t run from anything they stand and fight for what is right – they do not run from responsibilities -they stand and fight for what is right”
For 24-year-old mother of two, Angela Marie (not real names), who fled from the Congo to seek refuge in Uganda, this song is an embodiment of her daily struggles as an urban refugee. Hers is a tale of sadness, dejection, regret, depression, misery, despondency and despair. A tale of trials and tribulations that she shared during one of the breakaway sessions of the Human Rights Conference, 2019 on Refugee Rights, which was chaired by CEPA’s Programs Manager Eshban Kwesiga.
Marie ran away from the war back home, but not from her plight in Uganda, overwhelmed by life’s unkindness, tears stream down her face when she narrates her struggles. Raped, battered, robbed and left for dead in a waterway in a slum in Kampala, she was saved by a few Samaritans who were going on with their daily businesses in the morning. She later sought the intervention of the Uganda Police to investigate the assault on her life but claims she was treated with disdain by the police officers when they gathered she was a refugee. Apparently, they could not do anything for her and advised her to go and seek medical treatment and “move on because many girls are raped every day.”
Luckily, she had not contracted any STDs, she had however conceived and was carrying life in her womb without the slightest of a clue who was responsible for the pregnancy. The trauma of the unfortunate incident weighs heavy on her conscience to the point that she still experiences nightmares. Angel lives in a single room house with seven other relatives, two of whom are her children. With no privacy or even any form of decency, Marie says their housing conditions are horrible and she has to contend with it because this is the best her family can afford. She decries the social stigma that is directed towards her and her family because of their status as refugees, and with tearful eyes evincing of ineffable pain, she prays that refugees be treated like human beings they are.
Hailed for its Refugee Policy which is regarded as on the best in the world and home to over 1.5 million refugees, Uganda has continuously opened its borders to refugees and asylum seekers. This, however, puts a tonne of load in responsibility on Uganda to ensure their security, livelihood, create an environment for them to be rehabilitated and most importantly, ensure the enjoyment of their human rights. Uganda does not carry the responsibilities alone, the United Nation through its agency United Nations High Commission for Refugees is required to offer support. Many development partners also chip in when they can to ensure the livelihood of the refugees in Uganda.
The refugee question is one of many emerging challenges that need comprehensive analysis and viable solution. A lot has been done for refugees in camps to facilitate the enjoyment of their rights and allow them to rehabilitate and foster a better life but this, however, is still a myth to the urban refugees.