It is good the government of Uganda through the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has delivered food aid to the over six thousand refugees and Ugandan returnees currently holed up in the Sango Bay Camp.
These children, men and women, repatriated from neighbouring Tanzania, all represent the ugly face of the oppressed and suffering masses that straddle across the African continent and for them to go without food aid for four months is despicable, to say the least.
Over the years, every East African country, save for Tanzania, has produced refugees. This is a pathetic state of affairs that must not be given latitude to morph into something almost akin to ‘normal’.
Unfortunately, this time round, with the refugees and returnees in Sango Bay camp, it was the Tanzanian government expelling other East Africans, even when there are mechanisms that can be used to sort out issues of illegal immigration amicably, between the host and recipient countries.
First, Tanzania is signatory to the EAC Treaty, a pact that stresses the importance of the free movement of goods and services by East Africans across the region. It is important to note that due to a number of circumstances, all countries are, at a certain point in time, home to illegal immigrants or refugees, but we must at least strive to be our vulnerable brothers and sisters’ keepers in their trying moments. That is the spirit that informed the revival of the EAC as we know it today.
Just about a month ago, Burundi was up in flames and over 150.000 people were headed to the nearest border, to lurch to safety. The biggest number fled to neighbouring Rwanda and Tanzania. As if that were not enough, earlier and at different times, Kenyans, Congolese and South Sudanese had flocked the Ugandan border points, fleeing from raging conflicts in their respective countries.
So, it is not surprising that today in Uganda alone the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that there are about 300.000 refugees currently under the UN agency’s care.
In many ways these refugee numbers are disturbing and something must be done to reverse that deplorable state of affairs!