The climate for resettlement is changing in northern
Uganda. With peace talks between the
government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) inching closer toward a
final settlement, improved security is encouraging many internally displaced
people (IDP’s) to return home to resume farming their lands and rebuilding
their communities. Advocate researchers
Melanie Teff and Camilla Olson of the group Refugees International have spent
the past month surveying the transition process and assessing conditions for
ensuring a voluntary process of return.
Back in Washington, Camilla Olson says that with rebel leader Joseph Kony delaying to sign a final peace
agreement (FPA), many of the IDP’s are temporarily resettling in two places,
with one foot in their interim camps and transit sites and the other foot
implanted back in their origin homelands.
seen that people are returning more and more in the past two years since the
peace negotiations began. There hasn’t
been any active fighting in the north, and so more people are able to access
their land and to begin farming. But
many of the displaced people we spoke with in the north are still concerned
that the LRA may return, particularly since Kony has not signed the peace
agreement. So they’re keeping a hut in
the camp where they’re living at the same time that they’re starting to cultivate
their own land, in case they have to return to the camps again,” she said.
services in the return areas are far away from being adequate for those
resettling. Olson singles out clean
water, education, and health care as
the primary services in need of improvement as Ugandan and international aid
programs convert from humanitarian priorities to reconstruction and development
isn’t access to safe water. There
aren’t schools yet. Health centers are
lacking. So people keep a presence in
the camps in order to access a lot of these services,” she notes.
July 1, the Kampala government introduced its Peace Recovery and Development
Plan (PRDP) for rebuilding the north.
It has been extended to operate in 40 districts, well beyond the
originally targeted 14. But the
Refugees International advocates report that funding has not been stepped up
proportionally, and confusion reigns about how the government of President
Museveni is going to make up the funding gap.
Teff and Olson came up with a set of five policy recommendations to help
international donors and aid agencies channel their aid to areas where they
make a difference. Olson outlines the
steps that need to be taken.
main recommendations for the US and UK governments are to urge the government
of Uganda to commit to funding for the PRDP, which is a framework for
rebuilding the north and assisting those displaced people who are going back to
their home areas to have access to those basic services. We’re also in particular concerned about
policing in communities in the presence of a strong and capable police force,
trusting the US to provide financial support to improve their capacity and
training for those police officers. And
particularly for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), we want to make sure that returns
are done in a voluntary manner. So
we’re asking for the UN Refugee Agency and the US and UK governments to make
sure that the Uganda government is upholding the voluntariness of returns. And also, there are neglected IDP
populations that we found in other parts of Uganda outside of the Acholi area
in the north. And we’re hoping that the
UN Refugee Agency can assist them with the return process as well,” she pointed
The fifth Refugees International recommendation
involves asking US lawmakers and aid officials to budget a significant $35
million increase in discretionary,
non-earmarked funding for next year and to add on to the US contribution to the
UNHCR’s budget in ways that will support its programs for rehabilitating
internally displaced persons.