WHY REFUGEES LEAVE UGANDA'S CAMPS
Inadequate Humanitarian Assistance, Medical Care, and Education in Camps
Unlike Kenya, refugees in Uganda are given access to land for cultivation, and local government leaders sometimes agree to extend to refugees whatever public services are available in the surrounding villages. The Ugandan government calls the refugee camps "settlements" in order to communicate this integrationist policy intention. It is partly for this reason that UNHCR has commended Uganda on its "friendly" refugee policy.167
Refugees are given small plots of land to cultivate in order to promote self-sufficiency. However, refugees do not have clearly defined property rights since, according to Uganda's constitution land is owned by the "people of Uganda"168 - and who "the people" are is not a settled question in Ugandan law. The settlement system was intended by UNHCR and the government of Uganda to create sustainable refugee communities that eventually could be integrated into the local economy and government. However, the full integration of the refugees into local communities has not so far been possible. UNHCR has only attempted to hand one refugee settlement over to the full control of the government of Uganda, and it was a dismal failure.169 In 2002, UNHCR was still administering the camp.
Despite this more open approach, refugees who spend significant periods of time in the camps in Uganda complained to Human Rights Watch of food shortages.170 Several refugees became concerned about food when their young children were diagnosed as anemic. Bak S., a Sudanese man who was interviewed by a Human Rights Watch researcher in the Kabowa neighborhood of Kampala in a crowded shelter he shared with twenty other families explained:
You do not get enough food there [in the camp]. You get very little oil and no salt. My child was malnourished in that camp, and he was diagnosed as anemic. I went to UNHCR and they gave me only Ush.500 [U.S.$0.27] for medicine, but he did not get better. I took him to the hospital in the camp, but it was so congested my boy could not even lie down. I tried to argue that I needed to bring him to Kampala for treatment. The people in the hospital said, "how did you let your child become like this?" What could I say? They could not treat him and he died because of this.171
Refugees in Uganda told Human Rights Watch that the camps do not provide adequate secondary education opportunities for adolescents.172 Many refugee families living in the camps lack income-generating opportunities that would enable them to pay the secondary school fees, which are charged to Ugandans and refugees alike. Rebecca B., a Sudanese girl living in Adjumani camp was propositioned many times by a man who was paying her school fees and who also wanted to make her his wife. Her brother told a Human Rights Watch researcher, "she refused him and he stopped paying for her. But now he is very angry with her and I don't know what will happen."173 Another Sudanese refugee woman told a Human Rights Watch researcher, "in the camps they provide education up to grade seven, but after that it is up to you."174
Some refugees have multiple reasons for leaving the camp. Jebeda F., a fifty-seven-year-old Sudanese woman brought her grandchildren to Kampala. She described all the reasons she felt she and her family had to leave Kyangwali camp in southwestern Uganda:
I was in Kyangwali for five years. There you find the tse tse fly and the mosquito. For so long we had to stay in that camp without any results. We could not pay for the school-it costs Ush.20,000 [U.S.$11] a term! We have no school uniforms, no books. We came to Kampala to escape that sickness and to satisfy those needs. The digging [agriculture] in that camp is not enough to satisfy your needs. We get malaria and sleeping sickness there.... Then we had problems between us. The refugees came from Congo, Rwanda, Somalia and they had conflicts between them. We would get only eight kilos of grain per person per month and one quarter liter of oil, and one point eight kilos of peas. The rest we had to get from digging. And the food they gave us-we would fight for this food between each other. We would take pangas and arrows and spears and fight. Most of the Sudanese who come to Kampala are very young. They are escaping that life.175
Attacks and Insecurity in Camps
The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA, a Ugandan rebel group-see above), has periodically attacked refugee camps in northern Uganda for several years.176 Approximately 120 Sudanese refugees have been killed by rebel attacks since 1996, including three who died during 2001.177 Also in 2001, more than "1,000 refugees temporarily fled their settlement site because of rebel attacks during the year, and thirteen refugees were abducted before being released."178 The camps in northern Uganda are particularly vulnerable to recruiting raids by LRA forces. Adolescents have been abducted, forced to fight, and forced into sexual slavery as well as manual labor. A September 2001 report estimated that 11,000 young people were abducted by the LRA since 1986, of which 5,000 are known to have escaped.179 A recent report by Uganda's Refugee Law Project explained the pattern of LRA attacks in Adjumani,
Rebels enter the settlement [at night], refugees are captured and bound, the houses and fields are looted of food, pots, clothes, and other household items, and refugees are stripped and forced to carry the loot as they are marched to [the forest].180
The LRA attacks on northern Uganda and the refugee camps there declined after an Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreak in Gulu in late 2000. The LRA withdrew to their base camps inside Sudan-government-controlled territory and did not have a presence in northern Uganda until mid-2002, after the Ugandan People's Defense Force (UPDF) eliminated the LRA presence in southern Sudan, with the permission of the Sudan government.
LRA forces again stepped up attacks on refugee settlements in northern Uganda starting from mid-2002. In an attack on the Maaji settlement in early July six refugees and one UPDF soldier were killed.181 Rebel forces looted and burned homes, schools and other public areas causing over half of the 12,000 refugees in the area to flee. In early August an LRA raid on the Achol-pii settlement resulted in the death of at least thirty-eight people, including refugees and six Ugandan nationals.182 Four local aid workers were also kidnapped during the pre-dawn incident; they were released unharmed one week later.183 Reports by UNHCR staff in northern Uganda estimated that 24,000 refugees fled the settlement and that refugees were fired upon by the LRA as they fled.184 Relief efforts for the refugees continued, including efforts to relocate them to another camp, despite the fact that the LRA warned relief agencies to cease their work with refugees in northern Uganda.185
A Sudanese widow named Mary A.186 who was living in Kampala with her two small children told a Human Rights Watch researcher several reasons why she was afraid to go to Achol-pii camp. Given the July and August attacks, it appears her fears were justified.
They told me they will take me to Achol-pii camp. But Kony [Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA] comes and fights with the people there, and I refused that camp because it still has its own war.187
Located in western Uganda, Kyangwali camp has long been the site of attacks by another rebel group operating in the late 1990s and early 2000s in that part of Uganda, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In addition, in April 2002, violent clashes broke out between groups of refugees in Kyangwali.188 In late May 2002, clashes between two ethnic groups of Sudanese refugees resulted in the burning of fifty refugee shelters in Kiryandongo camp.189 Refugees learn of these attacks either through first-hand experience or, if they have never lived in camps, from others who have. One refugee told a Human Rights Watch researcher, "I can't go to the camp, what will I do in the camp? I won't have security in the camp. There is no food in the camp. And Kyangwali is near the place where the rebels are."190
Finally, the SPLA has thoroughly infiltrated the camps for Sudanese and also targets them for forced recruitment or sweeps for "deserters,"191 sometimes with assistance from the UPDF.192 One local human rights organization explained,
The SPLA influence is very strong in the [Sudanese] camps. There are informers in the camps and there is a problem with forced recruitment. Uganda turns a deaf ear to refugees with this problem.... [The] SPLA stays in the camps with their guns and uses the camps for rest and recovery and to plan.193
Abdu T., introduced previously, told a Human Rights Watch researcher why he resisted UNHCR's attempts to transfer him to the camps in Uganda from Kampala. He had been abducted by the SPLA and forced to work as a laborer and porter when he was living in Sudan before fleeing to Uganda, "They told me to go to the camp, but the SPLA will abduct me from those camps. They know I ran away from them, but they also know the case of my father very well because he is well-known in the opposition [to the SPLA]."194
When asked whether the Ugandan government recognizes that some refugees flee the camps because of insecurity, one Ugandan government official told a Human Rights Watch researcher, "we don't think refugees' fears of the camps are genuine, they are running from the camps."195 Although the security situation in the camps in Arua district improved somewhat in 2001,196 the onslaught of violent attacks in Maaji and Achol-pii camps by the LRA in mid-2002 meant that the situation remained extremely insecure elsewhere.
Insecurity for Particular Individuals
Sometimes a particular individual's political background is the reason for the security problems that he or she experiences in the camps. While living in the DRC, Etienne K. was asked by Rwandan military to participate in a plot to overthrow the government of Rwandan President Kagame that was allegedly supported by the government of Uganda. After resisting and revealing the plot, he fled to Uganda and was followed and attacked in Kampala. Eventually, he moved to Kyangwali camp.
However, Kyangwali camp was also unsafe for Etienne. In March 2001, Mr. X, a major who had been involved in the coup conspiracy, came to live in Kyangwali camp. Etienne was immediately afraid that Mr. X would take revenge against him for revealing the coup plot, so he told the camp "commandant" (a term commonly used in Uganda and appearing in Ugandan law)197 and the protection officer. They questioned Mr. X. about his military background, which he then admitted. UNHCR and the camp commandant did nothing further about the situation. Afraid that Mr. X. would take revenge, Etienne then told UPDF headquarters about Mr. X. Etienne told a Human Rights Watch researcher what happened next,
On May 11, 2001 a Ugandan military called [Mr. Z] came to my place in the evening and said, "I want to see Etienne." I said that is me and immediately he pointed his gun at me and told me to walk in front of him. I asked why, and he said, "if you don't do what I say, I will kill you right here." When we left he said, "this is the end for you." . . . Luckily it was dark, and in the forest, and I ran away.198
Etienne decided to leave Kyangwali camp soon after this incident occurred.
Mahret Z., an Eritrean woman described mistreatment she suffered in Uganda's Nakivale Camp at the hands of Ethiopian refugees, who were in the majority. She said,
At night when I was sleeping [in Nakivale Camp] some people burned my house down in 1999.... There were people against me in that camp because I am Eritrean. The police didn't help me either. The second time six people started beating me and one of those men raped me. They hit me very hard on the head. That beating is in my file in the camp, but I kept the raping between me and God. It happened on December 22, 2000. After that when I went to food distributions they would beat me. On August 15, 2001 they beat me, and threw me to the ground in a bad place where there were many sharp things and there is still something in my [left] shoulder from that beating... They refused to give me a chance to travel out of that camp.... I decided I had to leave that place, and I came to Kampala in October 2001.199
Several other women refugees cited fears of sexual violence as a reason for not going to one of Uganda's camps. For example, Mary A., introduced previously, told a Human Rights Watch researcher, "[I]f they send me to one of those camps with the Congolese-if I have to stay among them-I know they will cause me problems. They will beat me like they have beaten me before. They do not understand that in my culture you cannot have sexual relations when you have such a small child. They do not pay attention to my culture."200
Finally, Angeline Y. recounted to a Human Rights Watch researcher that the UNHCR Protection Officer told her she should go to the camp, but she refused, saying there is a lot of sexual violence there. He laughed and said, "You can find a husband there."201 She was very upset about this and was too angry to even answer. She continually repeated to Human Rights Watch, "does he think this is why I am here?" 202
167 See e.g. "UNHCR Hails Policy on Refugees," New Vision (Kampala, Uganda), March 22, 2002.
168 Constitution of Uganda, Article 237.
169 Kiryandongo is located in the Masindi district, in the northeast corner of Uganda, and is a camp for Sudanese refugees. There were two reasons for the UNHCR impetus for withdrawing from the camp: budget and funding shortfalls, and the need to prove the rhetoric that Kiryandongo was one of the most successful settlements in Africa by withdrawing and demonstrating that the refugees were self-sustaining. The Ugandan government objected because they did not want to absorb the costs of caring for the refugees, and the Masindi district officials did not want to extend their services to the refugees. UNHCR ordered InterAid to wind up their activities by January 1997 and withdraw from the camp, and the handover was set to occur in an unofficial manner on January 8, 1997. In the end, the Ugandan government refused to be party to any handover, and UNHCR did not even go to the camp on that day, although InterAid did cease social services in the camp. From 1998 through 2002, UNHCR and Ugandan government officials were still in discussions about the handover. See Tania Kaiser, "UNHCR's Withdrawal from Kiryandongo: Anatomy of a Handover," UNHCR New Issues in Refugee Research, Working Paper No. 32, October 2000.
170 A relief agency providing food in the camps decided on a policy of self-reliance for the refugees in Adjumani. They cut food supplies and the refugees protested, arguing that the land was not fertile. They took their case to OPM and UNHCR but there was no change in the policy so that many, mostly of Madi origin, from two or three camps returned to Nimule in southern Sudan, a Madi area. Human Rights Watch interview with an education and relief worker, Kampala, Uganda, July 22, 2002.
171 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 9, 2002.
172 In Uganda, primary education is free for citizens through seventh grade. The same curriculum, also free to refugees, is used for Sudanese refugees, and they may, if permitted by local Ugandan officials, sit for a primary leave seven (PL7) certificate. Uganda requires fees for higher-level schools. Upon completion of secondary school, graduates may sit for an all-level or ordinary exam (O-level), after which one is qualified for public service jobs. The Jesuit Refugee Service supported nursery, primary and secondary education to refugees as well as nationals in Moyo and Adjumani camps by providing "monthly incentives for staff, funds for classroom supplies and administrative costs." See Jesuit Refugee Service, 2001 Report p. 12 (available at http://www.jesref.org/resources/ar2001.pdf). According to UNHCR, 88,891 children are enrolled in education programs in Ugandan camps (including nursery, primary, and secondary). UNHCR states that efforts are underway to harmonize the refugee primary education programs with the local education system. Income-generating activities in the camps also led to more parents being able spare children from agricultural tasks and to afford secondary school fees. For the lower education levels, the ratio of males to females was good, but for secondary and vocational education the percentage of female attendance was much lower than that of males. See UNHCR, 2001 Global Report, p. 189.
173 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 13, 2002.
174 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 9, 2002.
175 Human Rights Watch interview, Kampala with refugee, Uganda, April 15, 2002.
176 See Action by Churches Together, "Appeal for Sudanese Refugees Resettlement," April 27, 1998 (reporting that "The district including local national and refugee settlements is subject to intermittent insecurity primarily caused by Lords Resistance Army rebels infiltrating from adjoining Gulu district [...] All project supplies en route to Adjumani have to travel through war torn Gulu district under infrequent military escorts [...] Seven project trucks and several light vehicles were destroyed by LRA rebels who attacked the LWF/UNHCR compound in October 1996.") The burning of UN vehicles was also reported in the press. See, e.g. Pan African News Agency, "Rebels Kill Ugandan Army Captain, Burn U.N. Vehicles," October 15, 1996. Sudanese refugees were killed by the LRA in Achol-pii camp in the northern Kitgum district of Uganda. See Reuters, "Ugandan Rebels Attack Refugee Camp, Kill 91," July 15, 1996.
177 See U.S. Committee for Refugees, Current Report (2002), (available at http://www.refugees.org/world/countryrpt/africa/ uganda.htm).
179 See Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, Against all Odds: Surviving the War on Adolescents, September 2001, p. 15.
180 "Refugees and the Security Situation in Adjumani District," Refugee Law Project Working Paper No. 2, June 2001.
181 See "Uganda: Five refugees killed in LRA attack," IRIN, July 10, 2002.
182 See "Uganda Rebels Force 24,000 Refugees to Flee UN Camp," New York Times on the Web, August 5, 2002; "Refugees killed, aid workers kidnapped as Ugandan rebels raid Sudanese settlement," UNHCR News Story, August 5, 2002.
183 See Agence France Presse, "Ugandan Rebels Release Four Kidnapped Aid Workers," August 12, 2002.
184 See e.g. "Twenty-four thousand Refugees Flee Rebel Attack," IRIN, August 5, 2002.
185 See Agence France Presse, "LRA Rebels Want Relief Agencies, Refugees out of Northern Uganda," August 10, 2002.
186 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 12, 2002.
187 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 12, 2002. There have been many attacks over the past five years by the Lord's Resistance Army in Achol-pii camp and its surroundings. In July 1996, 110 refugees were killed by LRA rebels, in January 1998 another three refugees were wounded, and in July 2000, LRA rebels based in Sudan attacked the camp and killed three refugees and burnt down about 80 huts. See IRIN, "Weekly Roundup," January 16-22, 1998; Xinhua News Agency, "Rebels Attack Camp in Uganda," August 13, 2000. Also, in its 2000 Global Report, UNHCR states that there were 30 attacks on camps in the Moyo and Adjumani districts throughout the year, pointing to a sharp increase in insecurity in the region. See UNHCR, 2000 Global Report, December 2001.
188 See "Trouble Brewing in Refugee Camps," Monitor (Kampala, Uganda), April 17, 2002. See also BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, "Ethnic Clash Said Brewing in Refugee Camp in West," April 17, 2002; BBC Monitoring Service, "Rebels Attack Refugee Camp in West," September 7, 2000 (reporting that in September 2000, ADF rebels attacked the refugee settlement killing two people).
189 See "Riot Police Rushed to Quell Refugee Camp Riots," New Vision (Kampala, Uganda), May 29, 2002.
190 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2002. In April 2002, there were reports of clashes between the Congolese and Sudanese refugees who were allegedly threatening each other and preparing weapons for attack. See BBC Monitoring Service: Africa, "Ethnic Clash Said Brewing in Refugee Camp in West," April 17, 2002. Also, the BBC reported that in September 2000, ADF rebels attacked the refugee settlement killing two people. See BBC Monitoring Service, "Rebels Attack Refugee Camp in West," September 7, 2000.
191 The SPLA does not maintain a large standing army. It recruits new soldiers and searches for those who have returned home in the lulls between military engagements in the south as well as in refugee camps in Uganda and Kenya. It uses violence when other methods do not work.
192 See e.g., BBC Monitoring, "University Report Accuses Army of Abetting Sudanese Rebel Recruitment," August 1, 2001 (reporting on an incident in which eighty-one male Sudanese were rounded up by the SPLA from Adjumani district with the assistance of the UPDF. Forty Sudanese were ultimately taken to Sudan.).
193 Human Rights Watch interview with NGO staff member, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002.
194 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 13, 2002.
195 Human Rights Watch interview with Ugandan government official, Office of the Prime Minister, Kampala, Uganda, April 8, 2002.
196 Human Rights Watch interview with U.S. Embassy official, Kampala, Uganda, April 11, 2002. See also "Refugees in Arua District: A Human Security Analysis," Refugee Law Project Working Paper No. 3, September 2001.
197 See text accompanying note 490, below, for a discussion of the provisions of Ugandan law establishing the "camp commandants."
198 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2002. The next morning Etienne went to the camp commandant to report the incident. They went together to the UPDF headquarters. Mr. Z was identified and admitted he had been paid U.S.$300 to kill Etienne. But Mr. Z refused to admit who had paid him. So the UPDF soldiers beat Mr. Z, trying to get him to disclose the name of the person behind the assassination, but he refused. As a result, he was detained and transferred to Kampala where he remained in custody as of April 10, 2002. After Mr. Z had been arrested, some UPDF soldiers came later to Etienne and offered him money, suggesting he should change the story so Mr. Z could go free. Etienne refused, so they threatened him saying "you will drink blood."
199 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 12, 2002.
200 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 12, 2002.
201 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2002.
202 Human Rights Watch interview with refugee, Kampala, Uganda, April 10, 2002.