Cablegate: Uganda Refugee Official On Kenyan, Sudanese


DE RUEHKM #0565/01 1150558
P 240558Z APR 08






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Uganda refugee official on Kenyan, Sudanese
and Congolese refugees

1. (SBU) Summary: On April 18, 2008, RefCoord met
with Carlos Twesigomwe, Commissioner for Disaster
Management and Refugee Affairs, Office of the Prime
Minister, Uganda. The Commissioner reaffirmed his
government's commitment to Kenyan and Congolese
refugees in its borders and praised UNHCR efforts to
repatriate Sudanese. He said Uganda was ready to
participate in preliminary discussions on Congolese
repatriation, but cautioned that barriers lay in the
path to a final Uganda-DRCongo-UNHCR agreement on
Congolese repatriation. Commissioner Twesigomwe
appeared to be exceptionally well informed on the
status of refugees in Uganda.

Kenyans: Move to a settlement in Uganda's interest
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (SBU) Twesigomwe explained that he lobbied his
Minster Musa Ecweru, Minister of State for Disaster
Management and Refugees, for the March 2008
relocation of Kenyan refugees from their transit site
to a permanent settlement. He said that refugees
expressed to him their desire to begin their lives in
Uganda, as they waited for peace to return to their
communities in Kenya. The Commissioner opined that
national political settlements meant less to the
refugees than did regional compensation for losses,
and assurances of security in their villages and

3. (SBU) The delay in moving the refugees to a
settlement had been the result of a political
decision, not a humanitarian one, according to
Twesigomwe. The government acceded to a request from
the Government of Kenya, to postpone the move to
April, to allow the refugees more time to deliberate
before moving them away from the border. The
Commissioner said he had objected to the decision
because the transit site was unsuitable for refugees
in the long term, and the refugee presence would
eventually become a burden or health threat for the
local community, creating enmity between the

4. (SBU) Initially, the political concerns took
precedence over humanitarian considerations, and the
Ministry delayed the refugee relocation. However,
Twesigomwe committed himself to "convince" the
Minister to hold to the end of April deadline for the

Sudanese: Returns cost Uganda resources/services
--------------------------------------------- ----

5. (SBU) Twesigomwe was encouraged by the pace of
the voluntarily repatriations of Southern Sudanese
from Uganda. He said the refugees were initially
suspicious that UNHCR and Uganda were delaying their
return home for political reasons, in collusion with
the Khartoum government. Southern Sudanese diplomats
had fed that suspicion in their contacts with refugee
leaders. However, there never had been a Government
plot against refugee returns. Now that UNHCR was
moving 3,600 refugees per week, the refugees had
stopped their protests.

6. (SBU) According to Twesigomwe, the Government of
Uganda expected to have good relations with Southern
Sudan, and the people-to-people contact in the
refugee hosting areas would be the basis for future
economic and social ties. Although he hoped for
close economic ties with Southern Sudan, the
Commissioner was concerned that repatriating Sudanese
were buying Uganda's food and charcoal, and exporting
those commodities with them as they returned home,
while Uganda experienced the early stages of a food
shortage. Twesigomwe planned to raise this trade
with the ministers responsible for agriculture,
commerce, and customs.

7. (SBU) The Commissioner said the successful
repatriation had another negative aspect for Uganda.
As part of the operation, UNHCR reduced resources
dedicated to the Sudanese refugees, and handed over
responsibility for key services to the Government of
Uganda. The Commissioner was unhappy over what he

described as UNHCR's "rush" to hand over to the
Government health and education services in refugee
camps. Twesigomwe complained that UNHCR and its
partners designed and executed the handover without
informing the Government. He and his office
developed their own plan for post-refugee services in
affected areas. However, UNHCR had never inquired if
the Government had its own ideas about what should
happen once the refugees repatriated.

8. (SBU) With unusual candor, the Commissioner said,
"We want money," in response to how UNHCR could
better manage the hand over. According to
Twesigomwe, the local government did not have the
resources to provide health and education services to
refugees and the local population as well. If UNHCR
could no longer provide these services, they should
transfer resources to the GoU so that local
government could use UNHCR funding to support

Congo: Talking about repatriation talks

9. (SBU) The Commissioner had learned from his
Minister of State that the Tripartite-plus process
encouraged talks between DRC, Uganda, and Rwanda on
the repatriation of Congolese refugees. Twesigomwe
supported the idea of preliminary talks. However, he
pointed out that two barriers stood in the path of a
UNHCR-Congo-Uganda tripartite agreement. First, in
a recent survey, Congolese refugees had
overwhelmingly rejected the idea of return to DRC.
He opined that the Congolese reticence made good
sense given the uncertain political situation in the

10. (SBU) The second barrier to a repatriation
agreement was the continued arrival of Congolese
refugees in both Rwanda and Uganda. "How can we
conclude an agreement on repatriation when refugees
are still coming," he asked. Twesigomwe said that
the violence in DRC continued, and had even crossed
the border briefly into Uganda when armed fighters
raided Uganda border villages for food.

11. (SBU) Returning to the theme of resources,
Twesigomwe expressed the concern that once nations
begin speaking of repatriation, UNHCR and donors
might begin to reallocate resources away from Rwanda
and Uganda and toward DRC. Such a move would be
disastrous for the nations that had hosted refugees,
Twesigomwe said. He explained that UNHCR and donors
should consider all the effects of a refugee crisis
on the host country, as well as the eventual care of
the residual refugee population left behind after a
repatriation exercise. The Government of Uganda
would want assurances that agreeing to a tripartite
agreement would not mean a lessening of the
international commitment to Uganda.

12. (SBU) Comment: The Commissioner's position on a
tripartite agreement with DRC seemed mildly negative.
The questions he raised are valid. UNHCR confirmed
that an intention survey conducted among Congolese
showed a marked unwillingness to go home. The survey
also showed that events in Kinshasa were not relevant
to refugees' decisions to return home. UNHCR plans
another survey in preparation for the preliminary
tripartite discussions. No matter what the result,
swaying the refugees would be a matter of
reassurances from their specific areas of return,
rather than demonstrated goodwill on the part of

13. (SBU) Comment continued: Commissioner
Twesigomwe's comments on UNHCR handover plans in
Uganda were disingenuous. In 2007, RefCoord and
UNHCR spoke at length with his office, local
government, members of Parliament, and the offices of
the responsible Ministers about the methodology of
the handover of health services. At that time, the
government was keen on the idea, hoping that UNHCR
would close out its partner, IRC, and funnel all
assistance through the GoU. Instead, UNHCR followed
a transparent plan, using local government--the

actual service provider, to take over aspects of the
health and education operations in the settlements
previously managed by partners.

14. (SBU) Government performance in the health sector
has shown weaknesses in health administration.
However, the GoU had over one year to prepare to
accept those functions from UNHCR. End comment.

© Scoop Media

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