- Who We Are
- What We Do
- Get Involved
|Northern Uganda: Give Displaced People Real Options (.pdf)||163.73 KB|
Peace negotiations over the past two years between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have produced tangible gains for the north which must not be lost.
Despite the fact that LRA leader Joseph Kony has not signed the Final Peace Agreement, improved security has meant that many internally displaced people (IDPs) can now access their farm land and begin rebuilding their homes. The situation remains fragile, however, and many of the displaced keep a foot in two places – one in the original camp or transit site and one in their home land – in case security deteriorates.
As humanitarian programs now transition to recovery and development activities, it is crucial for international donors to provide adequate, flexible, and timely funding to ensure that clean water, health care, and education are available in the home communities. The Government of Uganda must also fulfill its responsibility to protect the rights of displaced civilians, including their right to decide on where they will finally settle, and to rebuild northern Uganda in order to address the long-standing grievances of people in the Acholi sub-region.
Encourage Voluntary Return, but Let People Make Their Own Choices
Rhetoric by the Government of Uganda calling for the internally displaced to return home now is becoming increasingly strong. Officials have issued Camp Phase-Out Guidelines, which include plans for the gradual demolition of abandoned huts. There are concerns that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is not taking a strong enough stance in opposing the Government of Uganda’s focus on returns to the exclusion of other alternatives. In particular, there is a lack of clarity on options for those who choose to stay where the camps are located. UNHCR needs to foster ways for the displaced who wish to integrate locally to negotiate with landowners. While displaced people remain in the camps, basic services must be maintained to prevent de facto forced returns and the outbreak of disease, such as the current Hepatitis E virus outbreak, which has spread to several districts as a result of poor sanitation in the displacement camps.
About half of the more than 1.5 million internally displaced people in northern Uganda have moved out of the original camps. Even though most have only moved into transit sites closer to their areas of origin rather than returning home, many are beginning to cultivate their land and make plans to move home permanently. There is an urgent need to improve basic services in return areas – access to safe water, health care, and education – to encourage voluntary returns. Security fears are also having a major impact on returns. Displaced people living in camps nearer to the Sudanese border told Refugees International that they were not prepared to return home at this time – even those living in camps where people are dying of Hepatitis E – because of the potential threat of the LRA and attacks by Sudanese cattle raiders.
In addition to support for returns of those living in camps in the Acholi sub-region, there are other displaced groups in Uganda that will need help in rebuilding their lives. In Adjumani district in the West Nile sub-region, around 54,000 internally displaced people are living in camps that have received little support from the international community or the local district leadership. IDPs living outside of the camps in urban areas have also fallen through the cracks. As the focus of the international community moves to rebuilding the north and preparing for returns, UNHCR needs to work with local authorities to identify and assist these neglected groups of displaced people.
Read key facts on ensuring the voluntariness of returns.
Support Recovery of the North
A funding gap is opening up in northern Uganda, with humanitarian funding diminishing while recovery and development funding are taking too long to arrive. As an official with one UN agency told Refugees International, "When insecurity was so bad that we could hardly leave our compound, we were flooded with funding. Now that we have access and could do something really useful for communities the funding dries up." International donors need to identify mechanisms for channeling timely recovery funding to the north. Waiting for funds to come through regular development channels will take too long to respond to the urgent needs for basic services in return areas.
Humanitarian needs still exist in the north, particularly while the majority of the internally displaced remain in the original camps or in transit sites. During the transition period donors must provide humanitarian and recovery funding simultaneously to adequately meet IDP needs. Lack of flexibility in funding by donors is hampering the ability of international and local organizations to respond to the changing situation. In particular, US funds for Uganda are very heavily earmarked, leaving only approximately $2 million of discretionary funds for FY08 out of approximately $125 million allocated for northern Uganda.
The Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP), developed by the Government of Uganda and officially launched on July 1, is meant to be the framework for rebuilding the north. However, its extension from 14 to 40 districts without an increase in funding significantly reduces its potential impact on the northern districts most affected by the conflict. There is still great confusion about how the PRDP will be funded, implemented, and monitored, and about the level of additional financial commitment by the Government. The PRDP is another example of the Government of Uganda’s ability to draft plans and policies for the north that look good on paper but are poorly executed. Donors are understandably reluctant to contribute funds to the PRDP without clear guarantees from the government.
Read key facts on supporting the recovery of the north.
Build Local Capacity for Protection
Abuse and neglect of children and violence against women continue to affect the internally displaced in northern Uganda. Child abandonment is a serious concern. As parents go back to farm their fields, they often leave their children behind in the camps to attend school, which leaves them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The biggest protection concern for women in the camps is domestic violence. International non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have developed programs to deal with protection and sexual violence. However, these essential activities will not be sustainable if NGOs do not build the capacity of local organizations to take them over.
Improved policing in local communities would go a long way towards improving security and building up the confidence of the displaced to return home. While Special Police Constables (SPCs) have been dispatched to sub-counties around northern Uganda, they have been badly trained and are ill-equipped. Because of lack of transportation and resources, they do not patrol in the communities, but rather stay in the sub-county headquarters and wait for people to report abuses. International aqencies have given training and support to the SPCs, but programs have been uncoordinated and there continue to be complaints about police misconduct. Increased donor support is needed to create a more capable and robust police force, and to support local social welfare structures like the Community Development Officers (CDOs), who deal with gender-based violence and child protection concerns.
Read key facts on strengthening local protection mechanisms.