By: Senyonga Derrick


The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hon. Eng. Hilary Onek has called for innovativeness while handling refugee issues in the country. The Minister made the remarks during the inauguration of the new Refugee Appeals Board (RAB) at the OPM offices in Kampala last week.

Speaking at the event, Onek decried the increased reduction in resources from development partners due to geopolitical rivalry between major world powers which has now forced the government to take over the provision of basic services such as education and health in settlements.

He noted that because of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Africa had been forgotten at the global stage citing examples of UNCHR which is downsizing and the World Food Programme (WFP) which cut food rations by about 30 percent.

“Refugees can now only have one meal a day. We don’t give them enough food. We now have challenges of keeping law and order in refugee hosting communities because hunger is pushing them into criminality,” he revealed.

To this effect, the Minister urged partners to think innovatively such as considering a recommendation from President Museveni which requires the resettlement of refugees into small spaces so that the vast resettlement areas they currently occupy are used as big farm lands for them to grow food.

Onek thanked the previous board for being practical in ensuring that appeals that emanated from dissatisfied asylum seekers from the Refugee Eligibility Committee (REC) were efficiently handled and expressed confidence that the new board would attend to the backlog of cases arising from the nine months delay in inauguration.

The outgoing Chairperson, Lakidi Gordon thanked UNCHR for the legal, technical and financial support which among others enabled them to conduct a needs assessment of refugees across all borders of Uganda. He remarked that they had only been hindered by COVID-19 and the lockdown restrictions as well as the continued conflicts in South Sudan, Sudan and Congo which has led to accumulated cases because of the influx.

The new five-member committee is led by Mr. Charles Wadenya Wabwire and is deputized by Hon. Animu Angupale with Rosemary Tutegyerize serving as the Secretary and Wilberforce Ngonde as a member. The other member, who is the only appointed new member as the other four were part of the previous board, is Hon. Beatrice Rwakimari.

The Ag. Commissioner/Refugee Management at OPM, Douglas Asimwe assured the new members of trainings and engagements which will ensure that they dispense justice for those seeking asylum from persecution, violence and other injustices.

Jallah Facian, the Senior Registration and Identity Management Officer at UNCHR commended Uganda for contributing to humanity by remaining open to refugees and pledged to support the new board with trainings, capacity building and benchmarking consultations across the globe.