The speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has criticized the international community for failing to fulfil financial pledges made during the Kampala Solidarity Summit on Refugees, two years ago in support of refugees in Uganda.
The pledges recorded during the summit included $100,000 from Equatorial Guinea, $5 million pledged by the United Arab Emirates, $500,000 from China, $50 million from the United Kingdom, another $10 million from Japan.
During the same summit, Gabon pledged $250,000, neighbours Kenya pledged to contribute $200,000, Somalia pledged $100,000, Germany’s pledge stood at $56 million. $5 million was expected from Australia, Italy pledged $5.6 million, Canada pledged $11.5 million, while Sweden committed to contributing $27.1 million.
The summit also recorded pledges from Norway at $4 million, Austria at $2.2 million, Netherlands at $6.2 million, the Republic of Korea with $6.8 million, Denmark at $62 million, Ireland at $2.6 million and Finland with $2.4 million.
Regional groupings such as the European Union pledged $96.3 million while the African Union pledged $100,000. The private sector pledges included MTN Group Uganda with an anticipated contribution of $1 million, among others.
But according to Kadaga, the Ugandan government has only realized $540,000, out of the total pledges of $358 million made during the summit, hosted by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The summit aimed at raising $2 billion.
“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,” Kadaga said.
"During that summit we expected that many pledges would be met to support the refugee situation and I think they expected something like $15 million. But I think it is very very annoying that in the end it was only $540,000 that was eventually sent out of the $15 million. To me, it was fuzz that did not fulfil the expectations of the international community because everybody was there - the secretary-general of the United Nations was there, the head of FAO was there. Everybody who is anybody in the United Nations system was there but nothing came out of that summit other than a declaration." said Kadaga.
Kadaga made the remarks while addressing the 10th Conference of Speakers of African Parliaments and Senates at the Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, South Africa, on Tuesday. 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.
Uganda is the second-biggest refugee-hosting country in the world and the first in Africa. Uganda, with a population of 39 million people, Uganda is home to more than 1.2 million refugees, the biggest percentage of whom are from South Sudan.
But like other host countries, Uganda continues to shoulder the responsibility of facilitating refugees’ access to basic needs. According to the Office of the Prime Minister, Uganda needs at least $8 billion to continue its efforts in offering refuge to displaced populations.
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.
“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.
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.
Kadaga's protestations come at the time when Germany, UK and Japan have reportedly held direct funding towards Uganda's refugee programme over government's failure to respond to a corruption scandal where refugee numbers were inflated by over 300,000 refugees. The scandal was discovered in February last year and the donor community is angry that 18 months on, government is yet to effect the recommendations of the audit carried out by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services.
The audit revealed gross corruption and mismanagement of funds meant for the refugees through corruption, overpayments and double payments for contracts, fraud among others within the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. The audit carried out between January and May 2018 covered the period between July 1, 2016, and December 31, 2017.
The audit report made a number of recommendations; including the recovery of several misappropriated funds, review of UNHCR management, corruption and fraud mechanisms, review of UN’s dealings with the government on projects implementation among others. UNHCR swiftly acted on the audit recommendations and had its funding reinstated.