The UN Refugee agency, UNHCR in Uganda, has admitted that the presence of security personnel in the refugee settlements is not adequate, amid concerns in the recent past that refugees’ lives were being threatened by foreign elements.
There have been numerous concerns raised in the recent past especially by Rwandan refugees regarding the loopholes in security in the refugee settlements making some refugees victims of kidnappings and murder by elements said to be working for some neighbouring country. The witch-hunt has been more pronounced in refugee settlements in South Western Uganda.
Commenting on the issue at a news conference on Thursday, Joel Boutroue, the UNHCR Representative in Uganda, said security of refugee settlements is a responsibility of the government of Uganda and not UNHCR. He however admitted the gaps in security personnel deployed in these settlements are serious.
“Our mandate is protection of refugees, our mandate is not security. Security – law and order – is the responsibility of the government. What we do is support Police in terms of transport or office space so that we ensure there is Police presence in the settlement,” Boutroue said.
“But unfortunately they are not there because the Police is over stretched. In Kyaka (refugee settlement in Kyegegwa district) for example which has around 110,000 refugees, we have I think 17 Police officers. So, that’s really far from where we should be, but we recognize and the Police also recognize that their presence is insufficient. Their resources are overstretched, ours too,” he added.
He says that UNHCR is more concerned with ensuring there is more civil presence in these settlements and that political issues are for government to address.
In 2017, SoftPower News learnt from credible sources that the government of Rwanda had deeply infiltrated Uganda Police Force then led by Gen Kale Kayihura and was using it to systemically conduct abduction and illegal repatriations of Rwandan refugees and nationals seeking asylum in Uganda.
Highly placed reliable sources in Uganda disclosed at the time that numerous refugees of Rwandan origin had disappeared and others killed.
Rwanda has often been come under criticism for kidnapping of Rwandan refugees in other countries as part of a wider systemic approach of repression by Rwanda’s security agencies including the country’s Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) agents to silence political opponents world over.
Several other Rwandan victims have disclosed to SoftPower News that their relatives, spouses and loved ones have been taken away never to be seen again.
In August 2018, former Inspector General of Police, Gen Kayihura was charged with failure to protect war materials, failure to supervise arms and aiding and abetting the kidnapping of Rwandan refugees from Uganda.
Kayihura is accused of aiding and abetting actions of subordinate police officers in which Rwandan exiles and refugees were illegally repatriated to Rwanda. Among those repatriated was Lt Joel Mutabazi, Jackson Karemera and Sgt Innocent Karisa.
This, prosecution alleges happened between the years 2012 and 2016, and is a violation of Section 19, Subsection 1 (c) and Section 242 of the Penal Code Act Cap 120.
To all the three counts, Kayihura who was clad in a full army combat pleaded not guilty.
SoftPower News made efforts to speak to the Police spokesperson, CP Fred Enanga and his Deputy ACP Polly Namaye, however none of them was readily available to give a comment.
South Africa last week issued arrest warrants for two Rwandans accused of assassinating a former Rwandan intelligence chief, Patrick Karegyeya, in Johannesburg.
Last week, The Guardian and Financial Times reported that South Africa has issued arrest warrants for two Rwandans accused of assassinating a former Rwandan intelligence chief, Patrick Karegyeya, in Johannesburg.
During the inquest, an officer with South Africa’s special investigative unit testified that the probe had identified the suspects, who had left South Africa immediately after the crime, and linked the men “directly” to the Rwandan government.