Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bank of #Uganda, #Sudhir (#CraneBank) get sued for fraudulent liquidation of National Bank of Commerce

In a 25-page lawsuit filed at the Commercial court yesterday, businessman Amos Nzeyi, a shareholder of the defunct National Bank of Commerce (NBC), accuses Bank of Uganda (BOU) of illegally closing the bank he co-owned with former premier Amama Mbabazi. 

Also sued are embattled businessman Sudhir Ruparelia, his business partner Raskillal Chhotalala Kantaria and Crane bank, which was taken over by Dfcu bank in January this year.

In the suit, Nzeyi claims BOU’s decision to take over and sell NBC’s assets to Crane bank within six hours on September 27, 2012 was in breach of the Financial Institutions Act 2004.

NBC was owned by high-profile personalities from Kigezi sub-region, who included retired Supreme court Justice George Wilson Kanyeihamba, former finance minister Ezra Suruma and Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda. 

Businessman Amos Nzeyi
Through Muwema and Company Advocates, Nzeyi says he decided to go to court after learning recently that BOU sued Sudhir and his Meera Investments seeking to recover over Shs 397bn, money he allegedly stole from Crane bank.   

Nzeyi says they are interested in and affected by the admissions and reported fraudulent actions of Sudhir and Kantaria as disclosed in BOU’s case, which is before Justice David Wangutusi of the Commercial court.

Nzeyi says it is during the same period (2012) when the alleged fraud happened that BOU sold NBC assets to Crane bank. 

“The plaintiffs maintain that the highend dishonesty and fraud said to be committed by the third defendant [Sudhir] against his bank and said to be acquiesced to by the fourth defendant [Kantaria], is the same species of dishonesty and fraud whose contours were extended to NBC with the supervision and approval of the first defendant [BOU],” the plaint says, adding that the fraud and irregularities BOU complains about in its case against Sudhir were capable of being detected earlier but because of its regulatory lapses, they went on unabated.   

According to Nzeyi, by the time of takeover, winding up, liquidation, closure and sale of NBC by BOU, it was not an insolvent financial institution since the bank had just undertaken an expansion programme – acquired and refurbished its new headquarters on Yusuf Lule road in Kampala for about $1.8 million.

“It had also, among others, purchased several ATMs and the T24 temenos core banking system with the knowledge and approval of the first defendant [BOU],” the plaint reads in part.   


That after the closure of NBC by BOU, Nzeyi says, an injunction was issued by the Constitutional court on September 28, 2012 restraining the Central bank and its agents from taking further steps to wind up, liquidate and sell NBC. Nzeyi says the Constitutional court order was ignored by both BOU and Crane bank and all attempts to hear the main constitutional petition have since proven futile for the last five years.

Between September 29, 2012 and October 1, 2012, Nzeyi says BOU officials who includedBen Sekabira and Godfrey Yiga forcefully took over securities (money) from NBC well aware of the Constitutional court injunction. On October 1, 2012, Justine Bagyenda, BOU’s executive director, supervision, participated in the sale of some of NBC’s foreign currency deposits worth Shs 2 billion whilst she was aware of the said court order.

In the intervening period, Nzeyi says that one AR Kalan, who was the managing director of Crane bank during the contested purchase of NBC assets, disappeared mysteriously in circumstances inconsistent with good corporate governance of a financial institution.

Though Kalan disappeared, Nzeyi says, BOU did not put Crane bank, Sudhir and Kantaria to account for his mysterious disappearance, neither was a case of a missing person ever reported.

In the suit, Nzeyi says between 2007 and 2016, Sudhir as the shareholder of Crane bank, actuated a litany of dishonest dealings and extensive bank fraud involving the diversion of colossal sums as BOU admitted in its suit.

That though NBC was summarily closed without being accorded any financial support, Nzeyi says, it has been reported that BOU was forced to intervene in Crane bank’s financial debacle by injecting about Shs 400bn of public funds to stave off the systemic risk caused by the bank’s insolvency. 

“That the plaintiffs, therefore, take strong exception to the double standards and discrimination exhibited by the first defendant [BOU] against NBC which was unjustly and illegally put to sudden death,” the plaint goes on.

Subsequently, Nzeyi wants the Commercial court to declare that the takeover, closure and sale of NBC assets to Crane bank was in bad faith and in breach of Uganda’s financial laws.

“A declaration that the purported winding up and liquidation of NBC by the first defendant [BOU] was irregular, illegal, null and void,” the suit says, adding that court should order BOU to furnish an inventory of assets and liabilities of NBC at the time of takeover.  

Nzeyi also wants court to order BOU to show the NBC liquidators’ forensic investigation report together with the financial liquidation report plus an order for Sudhir to account for the disappearance of Kalan.

Asked whether they had been served with the plaint, the BOU lawyers said, not yet. Interviewed yesterday for this story, lawyer Peter Walubiri said the case by NBC confirms that so far BOU is on trial for failing in its supervisory role.

“The best case scenario for BOU would have been for the case with Sudhir to be settled out of court,” Walubiri said, adding, “But now they have failed to settle out of court; it’s time for the public to know who did what.”


Amos Nzeyi sues Bank of Uganda, Sudhir

In a 25-page lawsuit filed at the Commercial court yesterday, businessman Amos Nzeyi, a shareholder of the defunct National Bank of Commerce , accuses Bank of Uganda of illegally closing the bank he co-owned with former premier Amama Mbabazi.

#Chinese investor in wrangle with #Uganda minister over a deal gone bad

A Chinese firm, claiming to have been cheated out of a multibillion rock deal, has appealed to President Museveni requesting for his urgent intervention.
China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) is battling with a local company, Welt Machinen Engineering Ltd, for Kamusalaba rock in Lorengedwat sub-county, in Nakapiripirit.
Welt Machinen belongs to Ben Koriang and Felix Oroma, sons of Peter Lokeris, the minister of state for Minerals. Whereas CRBC maintain they need to extract gravel from the rock, Welt Machinen claims its intention is for commercial production of granite.
According to a letter dated June 29, 2017, CRBC warns that their harsh treatment by some government authorities could deter other foreign firms from investing in the country.
“The purpose of this letter is to request your intervention in this matter, which is affecting the company’s businesses in Uganda. As investors, we have executed work legitimately in the national interest; we should not suffer inconvenience of having to fight with speculators who want to take advantage of the court process as they have nothing to lose,” their letter partly reads.
The letter adds an intriguing twist to the legal battles between CRBC and Welt Machinen Engineering, over the ownership of Kamusalaba rock in Nakapiripirit district, which have been raging for more than three years now.
The Chinese firm says Welt Machinen is falsely claiming compensation amounting to Shs 9.15 billion from the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) for a contentious rock yet they (CRBC) had signed a memorandum of understanding with Nakapiripirit district administration, giving them ownership of the rock.
On December 20, 2016, CRBC secured a court order halting any payment of money to Welt Machinen Engineering by government until the case is settled.
The order also stated that Unra deposits Shs 21 billion (half of the Shs 42bn total valuation for the rock) with court not later than October 2017 as the main case is being heard.
But George Omunyokol, the lawyer for the Chinese firm, said at the weekend that they had got wind that Welt Machinen has been pressuring government to release part of the Shs 21 billion to the company, which contravenes the court order.
“Given the history of this file, where there were previous concerns raised by our clients, about the active processing of the contentious funds through the secretary to the judiciary, yet there was a general reluctance by the court to dispose of the application for the interim order, our clients are apprehensive that there might be a grim possibility of our client’s money being spirited away from court, in spite of an interim order, maintaining the status quo, being in force,” Omunyokol told The Observer on Saturday, July 22.
The Kamusalaba rock, according to a report by the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, is valued at Shs 46 billion. Efforts to talk to Siraj Ali, the lawyer for Welt Machinen Engineering, were futile.

According to various documents tendered in court, the conflict between CRBC and Welt Machinen Engineering started in May 2013 shortly after CRBC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nakapiripirit district leadership to extract gravel from Kamusalaba rock.
CRBC was supposed to pay Shs 50 million to the district. After the MoU was signed, Peter Lokeris claimed the rock was situated on his land. But the Lorengedwat sub-county leadership said the minister’s claim was false.
In August 2013, Ben Lokeris Koriang, the son of the minister, served CRBC with a letter informing the Chinese firm that Welt Machinen was the licensed mineral holder for Kamusalaba rock. Welt Machinen claimed that they wanted to commence commercial production of granite from the rock.
Koriang thus invited CRBC to a meeting to iron out the matter but the Chinese firm asked him to contact the Nakapiripirit district leaders. Welt Machinen instead sought the intervention of the commissioner for Geological Survey and Mines in the ministry of Energy.
On January 20, 2014, Edwards Kato, the acting commissioner Geological Survey and Mines, wrote to CRBC informing them that Welt Machinen were the lawful holder of the mineral license for Kamusalaba rock.
Welt Machinen then sued CRBC claiming Shs 8 billion as profit for two years for utilising Kamusalaba rock yet they did not hold the mining license.
But the High court in Soroti presided over by Justice Henrietta Wolayo ruled in 2014 that Welt Machinen did not have a license over Kamusalaba rock.
The decision kicked off a number of back-and-forth legal battles which continue till today. Welt Machinen filed a civil suit in October last year, seeking to challenge Wolayo’s ruling.
In the meantime, there is an interim order, which stipulates that the status quo should be maintained (in other words CRBC retains control of the rock) until the outstanding legal matters are cleared.

#China to take over #Uganda #Internet control

The Chinese government has through a statutory company agreed to offer Uganda a comprehensive cyber-security solution, including technical capacity to monitor and prevent social media abuse.
China National Electronics Import & Export Corp (CEIEC) committed to build the capacity of Uganda Communications Commission, Police and ministry of Internal Affairs to guard against cyber criminals, according to details of preliminary agreements reached with Ugandan officials in Beijing yesterday.

The Ugandan delegation is led by State Privatisation and Investment minister Evelyn Anite and includes her trade counterpart Micheal Werikhe.
Officials hope the direct involvement of China, which has distinction for firewalling on the Internet will help Uganda combat online fraud, tax evasion, pornography and other cybercrimes.
“We cannot hide our heads in the sand as if there is nothing happening. Criminals are using social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to commit crimes with impunity,” Ms Anite told their hosts, adding: “Cybercrimes such as terrorism, online fraud, human trafficking and pornography are becoming more commonplace, more dangerous, and more sophisticated yet as a country, we are helpless.”
This expression of dire need rang out to the Chinese like a song, with CEIEC vice president Zhou Xin assuring that they have capacity to offer advanced national defense electronics system and all-round supporting services for Uganda.
The company founded in 1980 is wholly owned by the Chinese government, and Mr Xin said he planned a visit to Uganda next month to meet President Museveni.
“We would like to secure our country and stop impunity online without offending the peoples’ freedom of speech. We have requested CEIEC to help us fight back,” Ms Anite said.
Mr Zong Rui, general representative of South East Africa (Business Department of Africa), welcomed the request by the Uganda delegation particularly on internet security and establishing a cellphone factory in Uganda.
He also expressed interest in helping Uganda provide security for oil installations. “We have invested over $1.2b in Africa’s defence systems, public security, communications systems and national defence systems. We are experts in those areas and we hope to share our success and technology with Uganda,” Mr Rui said.
CEIEC has built wide-ranged cooperation relationships with more than 160 countries and, besides opening China up to the world, is a key player providing electronic business solutions.
He promised to open a branch in Uganda soon.
Earlier, Minister Werikhe also told the company executives that new technologies have created new opportunities for criminal yet Uganda lacks capacity to fight back.
The ministers assured the company of government support and delivered greetings from the President.
“Even critical infrastructure for developed countries, including both private and public sector networks, are targeted by cyber criminals,” he said, adding: “This is the reason why we must monitor social media and internet before it’s too late. And as a country, we have also been grappling with the problem of finance monitoring, but with the CEIEC technology, it’s going to be difficult to evade taxes.”
Hackers have lately increased attacks to steal government records, sabotage energy infrastructure and manufacturing plants, making states and big enterprises vulnerable.
In Uganda, the direct entry of China in providing technology solutions and online surveillance will rattle a population increasingly vocal on social media but wary of government.
Police have arrested a number of Ugandans, some facing prosecution, for their social media posts deemed offensive or abusive under the Computer Misuse AcT, 2011.
The government on Election Day in 2016, shut down social media, triggering global condemnation for its intolerance and high-handedness.
According to the Africa Internet Users, Facebook and 2017 Population Statistics, Uganda with a population of 38 million people has about 13 million Internet users as of March, 2017 and 2.2 million Facebook users as of June 30, 2016. Majority Facebook users log in using mobile devices.


China to help Uganda fight Internet abuse

Wednesday July 26 2017 Advertisement By Yasiin Mugerwa BEIJING- The Chinese government has through a statutory company agreed to offer Uganda a comprehensive cyber-security solution, including technical capacity to monitor and prevent social media abuse.China National Electronics Import & Export Corp (CEIEC) committed to build the capacity of Uganda Communications Commission, Police and ministry of Internal Affairs to guard against cyber criminals, according to details of preliminary agreements reached with Ugandan officials in Beijing yesterday.The Ugandan delegation is led by State Privatisation and Investment minister Evelyn Anite and includes her trade counterpart Micheal Werikhe.

#Chinese employer in #Uganda fire employees after forced #HIV tests - #HumanRights #HealthCare

KAMPALA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Kato was called into his manager's office, the Ugandan driver assumed he would be sent on an errand, not be ordered to take an HIV test and lose his job when it came back positive, leading him to sue his Chinese employer for unfair dismissal.

Kato, 45, is one of two HIV-positive workers who went to court in June to demand compensation from their former employer, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), in Uganda's second high-profile AIDS discrimination case in two years.

"(My manager) said: 'If you don't go for this test, you'll be fired'," said Kato, a father of three who declined to give his full name for fear of stigma.

"We had to go along with it because we were afraid of losing our jobs," he said, describing how half a dozen employees were ferried to a clinic in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, to have their blood tested.

Uganda's high court will hear the case on Aug. 16, in which the two plaintiffs are asking for 400 million Uganda shillings ($110,000) in compensation, after efforts to reach an out-of-court settlement failed.

The day after his results came back in March 2016, Kato said, his manager asked him to sign a resignation letter.

CCCC, one of the world's largest businesses with a focus on infrastructure projects, denied the allegations.

"No employee has ever been coerced to take a medical check-up," it said in court documents.

"Medical check-ups undertaken by the plaintiffs, if at all, were not calculated to determine their employment, but for their own health benefit."

A lawyer for CCCC, which has three major road contracts with Uganda's government, and a spokesman for the Uganda National Roads Authority declined to comment as the case is in court.

CCCC's administration manager in Uganda, Hao Yunfeng, said in emailed comments that the company offers staff free, voluntary HIV tests.

A sign for China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) in Uganda which is being sued for unfair dismissal by two former employees who are HIV positive on July 16, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation / Amy Fallon

The other plaintiff, a 27-year-old woman who asked to be identified as Alen, said she was fired after eight months cleaning at CCCC on a monthly salary of 300,000 Uganda shillings ($83).

"You're not supposed to treat people like that," said Alen, who has been unable to find another full-time job since she was fired and struggles to support her six-month-old baby.

"For them, it's as if HIV is like flu."

A road being built by China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) in Uganda which is being sued for unfair dismissal by two former employees who are HIV positive on July 16, 2017. Thomson Reuters Foundation / Amy Fallon
CCCC said in its court submissions that Alen stopped coming to work after being warned about her performance.

Both plaintiffs are also suing for infringement of the right to privacy, saying that the clinic shared their test results with their managers, not them.

Eight other employees said, in affidavits supporting Kato and Alen, that their managers also forced them to take HIV tests, which proved negative.

Some 1.5 million of Uganda's 40 million people are HIV positive and stigma is rife, with parliament in 2014 criminalizing the intentional transmission of the disease.

Kato's lawyer, Stephen Tumwesigye, said in emailed comments that the case highlights "glaring human rights violations that are perpetrated unabated" by Ugandan government contractors.

"We hope that in presenting this case before the court, many Ugandans will come out to report such violations," he said.

A kitchen worker employed by China's Sinohydro Corporation, which is building a dam on the River Nile, lost an HIV discrimination case in 2016 when the Ugandan court ruled that its decision to transfer her to another department was legal.

($1 = 3,595.0000 Ugandan shillings)


Ugandans take Chinese firm to court in latest HIV workplace battle

KAMPALA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Kato was called into his manager's office, the Ugandan driver assumed he would be sent on an errand, not be ordered to take an HIV test and lose his job when it came back positive, leading him to sue his Chinese employer for unfair dismissal.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

#Tanzania govt evicts farmers off #land to save river

Gazing at the exposed, rocky bottom of the Great Ruaha River, known as the jewel of Tanzania, Rosemary Kasenza ponders what the future holds for her family now that there is no longer enough water for her crops.
"I am worried because it's the dry season and I don't have enough food to feed my children," she said.
Kasenza grows potatoes, maize, onions and bananas on 3 hectares (7 acres) of land in the fertile Ruaha basin in southern Tanzania.
She says she used to have no problem irrigating her crops, but now the river flow slows to a trickle in the dry season.
"We have experienced long periods of drought which have badly affected the river flow," said Kasenza, who runs a channel to drain water from the river to her farm.
The 51-year-old mother of six is among the roughly 1 million small-scale farmers who produce much of the East African nation's food, many cultivating rice on water-intensive farms.
In the Ruaha basin, the government accuses farmers of illegally squatting on protected land along the river banks.
Now, thousands face eviction as authorities try to protect wetlands critical for the river's flow — and the survival of local wildlife.
The government says farmers' water-intensive methods and herders' cattle have brought the once mighty river close to death, but farmers and pastoralists say they have lived in harmony with nature for decades, and are victims of drought.
"I don't have anywhere to go. We have been staying here all our lives. My children have known no other home than this one," Kasenza said.
FILE - Tanzanian Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, in the red shawl, is briefed about the destruction of the Ruaha river, in Kilolo district, Tanzania, May 8, 2017.
FILE - Tanzanian Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, in the red shawl, is briefed about the destruction of the Ruaha river, in Kilolo district, Tanzania, May 8, 2017.
Wildlife and water
Described as the "ecological backbone of Tanzania," the Great Ruaha River flows nearly 500 km (300 miles) from its source in the Kipengere mountains, through vast wetlands and the Ruaha national park before emptying into the Rufiji River in the southeast.
The Ruaha river produced more than half of Tanzania's hydropower for decades but increasingly frequent periods of drought have forced the government to shift to fossil fuels, including gas, for electricity production.
A task force set up this year by the Tanzanian government to examine the river's continuing degradation highlighted the impact of intense agriculture on the river's health and recommended the eviction of farmers and pastoralists from some areas.
Speaking in May after reviewing the task force report, Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzania's Vice President, said the government would consider removing farmers who encroached on water sources to help restore the river's flow.
"[We must] come together to save the ecosystem of the valley for the welfare of our lives and the interests of the nation as a whole," she was reported as saying in local media.
During a visit to the river basin in the Kilolo area last month, muddy, drying ponds were visible along the river, and crocodiles and hippos seemingly found it difficult to cool themselves.
In another area, vultures hovered above mounds of dead fish rotting in the sun.
Officials say the degradation of the river spans its entire length, from source to mouth.
In an interview with Reuters, January Makamba, minister of state in the vice president's environment office, said farmers who divert water from the river to their farms were responsible not only for the degradation of the environment but also for the death of wildlife.
It is illegal to divert water from the river in wetland areas the government deems to be protected sites.
"We are going to take stern measures against them regardless of their status or position in order to save the river ecology," he said. "We feel it is necessary to be very aggressive and uncompromising in enforcing the laws."
FILE - January Makamba, Tanzanian Minister of State for the Environment, and other officials inspect the dwindling water of the Ruaha river, in Kilolo district, Tanzania, Oct. 19, 2016.
FILE - January Makamba, Tanzanian Minister of State for the Environment, and other officials inspect the dwindling water of the Ruaha river, in Kilolo district, Tanzania, Oct. 19, 2016.
Long-term problems
Authorities say that the Ruaha river dried up for the first time during the dry season of 1993. Water levels have dropped and dry spells have lengthened since, sometimes lasting several months, the minister said.
"You can say, without fear of being contradicted, that the river is collapsing. And, for once, God is not responsible," Makamba told Reuters.
He said that unless urgent action is taken to restore flows to the river, Ruaha National Park — the largest in east Africa and home to about 10 percent of the world's lions — will die.
"The beauty of nature across the basin was breathtaking, its destruction is heart-breaking," he said.
According to the minister, farmers with legitimate land claims will be compensated and allocated plots elsewhere but those who occupied land in the river's basin illegally would have to return to "where they came from."
"If someone settles in an area that he clearly knows to be protected land, they will not be compensated," the minister said.
According to local analysts however, the government's decision to evict poor farmers from the river basin and the more fertile areas of wetland will cut off families from natural resources they have relied on for generations.
"Smallholder farmers along river banks have for a long time managed to feed themselves and their families adequately without causing any harm to nature," said Lucas Mnubi, an environmental expert and the editor of Nature magazine in Dar es Salaam.
Mnubi said authorities should instead teach communities how to harvest river water sustainably, not evict them from the land.
Local farmers say they are being unfairly singled out and the move to evict them would destroy their livelihoods.
"We are being accused of destroying water sources, but the government doesn't realize the biggest enemy is drought," said Benjamin Nzuki, a farmer in Kilolo.
According to Nzuki, local farmers have always tried to conserve water sources, especially in the catchment areas.
"We always plant water-friendly trees in order to protect catchment areas so as to allow free flow of the water," he said.
Nzuki called on the government to work with local communities instead of "harassing them and branding them invaders."
The minister said farming methods that were less water-intensive would be introduced in some areas, and communities taught about the importance of protecting water sources.
"We have [also] put a limit on the number of cattle that each household can keep to cope with land scarcity and manage water sustainably," Makamba said.
However, herders who graze their animals in the riverlands are not happy.
"Pastoralism is business like any other, if you ask me to keep ten cows instead of hundreds you will obviously deny me income," said Leikim Saburi, a herder in Kilolo district.

VIDEO: #Landless #Brazilian peasants invade, take over 479 hectare farm of Minister

About 1,000 landless peasant families invaded a farm belonging to a firm owned by the family of Brazilian Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi on Tuesday, according to a statement from the group backing the occupation.
The landless peasant movement, known as MST, said in a statement on its website that the occupation began early Tuesday morning on a farm 210 kilometers (131 miles) from Cuiabá, capital of Mato Grosso state. The group said the property belongs to Amaggi SA.
Mato Grosso is Maggi's home state and the country's agricultural heartland.
Press representatives for Amaggi confirmed the invasion of the SM02 farm, adding that it is taking measures to ensure the safety of 17 workers and their family members who reside on the property. Amaggi also is seeking the legal means to remove the protesters from the 479-hectare property.
The Agriculture Ministry referred comments to Amaggi. Mato Grosso is expected to produce about 60 million tons of soybeans and corn in the current crop cycle.
MST uses land occupation and other forms of social activism as a way to pressure the government to promote land reform, including distribution of lots for poor rural workers.
Brazil has a long history of violent land disputes that have pitted farmers against peasants as well as indigenous groups.
MST says 68 people have been murdered in connection with land conflicts in Brazil this year. The group aims to convince the government to expropriate and distribute land to 130,000 peasant families, it said in the statement.


PICTURES: Unforlding #Refugee crisis in #Uganda

The reality which media, donors and activists are not talking about is the fact that Uganda invaded South Sudan and continues to fuel the war in South Sudan.  Ugandans are also forced to give up their land at gun point so that space can be made for refugees.  Ugandans neither have enough food nor medicine and many are going without school.  
Consequently, if the world keeps focusing on the plight of refugees without addressing the suffering of Ugandans, there is a risk that these refugees will be attacked and chased away by the locals who are now the second class citizens compared to the first class of the refugees.  The writer in this story says something without likely knowing its impact.  
UGANDA gets funding for refugees so the refugee business is a good business for the Ugandan government but most certainly not for the Ugandans whose land is grabbed to make way for the foreigners.  TIME FOR A REALITY CHECK!  Ugandans are going days with no food and many are dying from lack of health care and yet the world praises Uganda for refugees.  #UgandanLivesMatter!
Martha Leah Nangalama
Uganda, the country with the world’s fastest growing refugee burden, is failing to secure the help it needs to care for those forced across the border from South Sudan by war and hunger.
Close to one million South Sudanese refugees, 86 percent of them women and children, have settled in northern Uganda as a result of the crisis. On average, 2,000 people arrive each day.
The unprecedented mass influx is putting enormous strain on Uganda’s already limited public services, and fragile local resources like land, firewood, and water. That, in turn, is fanning tensions between the refugees and host communities.
The international community is struggling to respond to a crisis of this scale. In June, Uganda and the UN appealed for $2 billion to support the country’s total refugee caseload of 1.3 million for the next four years. Just $350 million has been raised.
Samuel Okiror/IRIN
New arrival refugees receive daily food rations of maize grains (posho) and beans at Imvepi settlement
That same month the World Food Programme cut its rations to refugees by 50 percent and warned of further cuts to come. WFP needs $117 million for the next six months, but has a $65 million funding gap.
Until fleeing to Uganda, Ben Lam was the county administrator for the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Magwi County, and a man of substance.
Now he is just another refugee in Arua district’s Imprevi settlement; dependent – like his wife, six biological children, and five additional kids he took in – on an unreliable supply of aid.
His list of needs is long, but “whether we have something to eat or not, at least here is safe. We can sleep and move. A better time will come, provided that we are alive.”

Test Case

Uganda has been praised for its progressive refugee hosting policy. Refugees do not live in camps but looser settlements, and have the right to work and access social services.
The country was chosen as one of the key testing grounds for a new global compact – the “Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework”. The initiative is meant to ease the pressure on host countries, but the disappointing level of funding suggests it’s not off to a flying start.
“Unless new funding is received in the coming weeks, WFP will not have enough cereals, maize meal, and beans to meet the full food needs of refugees in Uganda,” said Lydia Wamala, a WFP spokeswoman in Kampala.
UN report noted that Uganda spent over $323 million in 2016/17 on the protection and management of refugees, and on the provision of essential services. That is equivalent to 46 percent of the country’s annual education budget and 62 percent of its health expenditure.
But there are shortages across the board for the refugees encamped in five vast northern settlements – from shelter to healthcare and sanitation.
“Ugandan host communities in the north have shown exceptional generosity by welcoming refugees with open arms,” said Charlie Yaxley, a spokesman for UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency. “However, this is not something Uganda can tackle alone.”
Western public opinion is not only opposed to taking a greater share of the refugee burden, but it’s also against “their government’s spending money to help refugees where they currently find themselves,” said Phil Clark, a Great Lakes expert at SOAS, University of London. “This leaves refugee populations extremely vulnerable.”
Samuel Okiror
An elderly woman carrying her meal at Imvepi


Bidi Bidi is one of the largest refugee settlements in the world. As just one example of the needs, some 55,000 children are crammed into 12 overcrowded schools lacking teachers and learning materials.
“Our refugee children are studying in temporary structures,” said Robert Baryamwesiga, the settlement commandant for Bidi Bidi. “They are supposed to [last for only] three months. Now we are going to a year and still using them.”
According to Baryamwesiga, 50 percent of refugee children do not attend school. “Many of them are unaccompanied or separated children,” he noted.
Save the Children has warned of an education emergency. “There is a real and present danger that an entire generation of refugee children will be deprived of the education they need to rebuild their lives,” the agency said in a recent report.
Thousands more children are suffering from trauma and are not receiving the mental health support they need. “It is vital these children receive dedicated, professional help,” said Henry Makiwa, spokesman for the development agency World Vision UK.
To draw attention to the plight of the estimated 700 traumatised children that arrive in Uganda each week, World Vision has launched a #BearsOnStairs campaign. It will culminate with an event on the steps of London’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral on Thursday.

Rising tensions

In theory, the refugees could be an asset rather than a burden to the host communities. Their presence should attract donor-funded development like roads and schools – part of the bargain the CRRF envisaged.
But a USAID report released in May warned that tension is rising between host communities and refugees over access to services and local resources.
“The fact that refugees can access food but not the host communities is not going down well with some community members,” the report said. ”Rising social tension between refugees and host communities has the potential to degenerate into secondary conflict.”
Samuel Okiror/IRIN
South Sudanese children washing their hands after getting off the bus. About 2,000 refugees cross into Uganda every day
In some cases, locals have already threatened refugees with violence, said Dennis Mbaguta, settlement commandant for Impevi.
“We compete for resources like land and water, which don’t expand,” he told IRIN. “There are concerns over the environment as trees are being cut [down] and not replaced.’
According to Clark at SOAS, “the growing perception in many host communities is that the state is privileging refugees over its own citizens.”
Lino Ogora, a peace activist based in the northern town of Gulu, argues that the resentment of the host communities “is an indicator of the poor facilities and services provided by the government to its own people”.
The refugees should not be blamed for this, “but rather the government should be the one to put its house in order.”
The longer-term solution to the refugee crisis in Uganda lies in an end to the conflict in South Sudan. There, fighting since 2013 has internally displaced close to two million people and left 5.8 million in need of aid. But regional and international peace efforts have stalled and the violence shows no sign of abating.