Uganda govt officials suspended over selling South Sudanese refugees as slaves

South Sudanese refugees

Four officials in the Office of the Prime Minister have been interdicted following a complaint of gross abuses of South Sudan refugees in Ugandan camps to Dr Ruhakana Rugunda by United Nations.

The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Hillary Onek, received a report dated December 14, 2017 from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) saying Ugandan officials were harassing their staff.

The report pinned Nakivale Refugee Settlement Commandant, John Bosco Sentamu and the refugee desk officer for Mbarara, Walter Omondi.

Onek wrote Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura, to investigate the matter.

Before he could get results, on January 26, 2018, Rugunda received a letter from the UN resident coordinator, Rosa Malango citing gross mismanagement, fraud and corruption in Ugandan refugees operations.

Rosa’s letter further cited numerous theft of relief items for refugees and misapplication of government land for themselves, allegations of trafficking minor girls and married women to men not of their choice and interference in refugee elections and community leaders by staff of Department of Refugees headed by Apollo Kazungu, the commissioner for refugees.

Donors especially US, European Union and UK threatened to withdraw aid to refugee programmes in Uganda.

Officials asked to step down

Onek consequently directed the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Christine Guwatudde Kintu, to interdict Apollo Kazungu (commissioner refugees), Walter Omondi (Refugee Desk Officer in Mbarara), John Baptist Sentamu (former camp commandant in Mbarara who was transferred to Hoima) and Francis Nkwasibwe (a registration officer/assistant commandant in Mbarara).

In his January 30 directive, Onek told Guwatudde to either interdict or cause the officers to step aside while investigation into their conduct commences immediately.

Government speaks

Musa Ecweru, the State minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, issued a press statement in which he said they took the allegations “seriously”.

“As such, the leadership in the Office of the Prime Minister which oversees refugee issues in the country, in collaboration with partners, is already seized by the matter and is working with stakeholders, including the United Nations system at different levels, with a view of establishing the facts and truth and taking remedial action”.

Ecweru said the government had already “commenced measures to investigate” the allegations, and that it had also taken “immediate administrative measures” including the biometric registration of all refugees in the country.

via The Edge (UG) Ltd.

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