Between 1942 and 1944, 7,000 Polish refugees, mainly women and children, were received in Uganda. They were settled in two camps Nyabyeya, in Masindi district and Koja (Mpunge) in Mukono district.
In 1948, most of these refugees were resettled in Britain, Canada and Australia. Since the 1940s, Uganda has had a date with destiny, providing a sanctuary to refugees and asylum seekers from all over the world.
Some of these refugees have been Rwandans escaping turbulence back at home, with the first wave scampering across the common border into Uganda in 1959, following the bedlam that saw then King Kigeri V, flee into exile.
Yesterday, Eng. Hilary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, labelled Rwanda ungrateful for failing to appreciate the hospitality Uganda has over the years given to a section of its nationals when they were refugees.
Onek made the comments during the closure of a four day summit on jobs, livelihood and self-reliance for refugees, returnees and host communities in Kampala yesterday. Organized under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the conference was a follow-up on the March, 2017 Nairobi declaration that sought to find a durable solution to the refugee crisis in the region.
The closing ceremony was graced by Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, IGAD’s executive secretary Mahboub Maalim, a number of ministers from the eight IGAD member states and diplomats from UN agencies that deal with refugees. Without explicitly mentioning names, but leaving no room for guesswork, Onek took a dim view of the current diplomatic impasse with Rwanda that has seen Kigali close its common border with Uganda, saying:
“We are quarrelling over nothing”. “We have looked after them, made them to become what they are and all of a sudden, we are their enemies. We leave that to God to determine where we have gone wrong,” Onek said.
Onek’s comments come at a time when relations between Rwanda and Uganda are at an all-time low over a host of accusations by Kigali revolving around alleged dissidents bent on subverting it being supposedly afforded freedom by Kampala to operate on its territory.
Rwanda has of late been explicit about its disquiet over its former deputy high commissioner to India, Charlotte Mukankusi and tycoon Tribert Rujugiro, apparently zipping in and out of Uganda with ease. Early this month, President Yoweri Museveni wrote to his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, refuting claims that Kampala is offering support to Rwandan dissidents.
On Friday last week, Onek’s deputy, Musa Ecweru, said none of the individuals Rwanda claims are bent on destabilizing it enjoy refugee status in Uganda. With a considerable section of Rwandans born, bred and schooled in Uganda, the current closure of the border by Kigali has affected families who have relatives in both countries.