The government of Uganda is scrapping the so called “blanket refugee status policy” – in apparent shift seen as response to ongoing fallout with Rwanda.
Under the existing policy, refugees arriving from any country have automatically been granted refugee protection.
However, Uganda’s Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hillary Onek is pulling the plug on the system that has seen Uganda hosting more refugees than any other country in Africa.
Since 1959 when the government-instigated violence broke out in Rwanda, tens of thousands of Rwandans fled to Uganda.
The Nakivale refugee camp opened at the time in southwestern region would later be turned into Nakivale Refugees Settlement where many of the officials in power in Rwanda today grew up.
However, in 1994, other Rwandans left the country – escaping alleged reprisal attacks after the RPF took over power.
Today, Uganda is home for over 17,000 Rwandan refugees and asylum seekers.
In changing the refugee policy, Ugandan Minister Onek said the system has been open to “abuse by some countries and criminals”. Under the new policy, applicants will now be considered individually.
“We realized that a number of criminals found their way in,” said Onek, making the announcement on Tuesday.
“There are cases where countries trained their security personnel to trail high profile refugees and either murder or abduct them.”
Though Onek did not specifically name Rwanda, and there has been no official declaration about alleged operations by Rwandan security agencies in Uganda, the allegations have been made using obscure propaganda websites.
Rwandan security apparatus have allegedly infiltrated the Nakivale settlement where Rwandan refugees are attacked, killed or abducted and sent back to Rwanda.
Presidents Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni have signed a memorandum of understanding to deal with their differences. However, not much has been implemented on the ground.
The latest action on either side is that Uganda has blocked some Rwandan news sites and Rwanda has also done the same.
The Chronicles is not among those affected by the blockage in Uganda.