The Minister of Foreign Affairs Gen Jeje Odongo has said that no decision has yet been made to host Afghan refugees in Uganda.
Gen Odongo was on Thursday appearing before Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee where several MPs tasked him to explain the government’s reported plan to host 2,000 refugees from Afghanistan.
The minister told MPs that Uganda has been approached because of its international humanitarian record of helping people in distress and that it is on this record that the country is continuing to discuss the matter.
“No decision has been made, whether they will come or not. It’s a suggestion, a proposal; discussions are going on…no substantive decision has been made,” he emphasised.
He told the committee chaired by Buliisa Woman MP Norah Bigirwa, that government will communicate a decision on the matter when it is finally made.
However, in a separate meeting between Parliament’s Presidential Affairs Committee and Hilary Onek, the Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, he said that the Afghan refugees will be catered for by the American government.
“It is the American government bringing them here for us to host them, while they process their documents for onward journey to America. So that is the information we got,” he said.
He was responding to a query about proposed plans to hold the refugees at Namboole Stadium which has been used by the government as a Covid-19 treatment centre.
Onek dismissed reports of hosting the Afghan refugees at Namboole saying that the stadium is never close to their minds when it comes to hosting refugees and therefore it is not on the program for Afghanistan.
“We shall put them in hotels…after all our hotels have been starving of customers. So hotels should also start earning money from this undertaking,” he added.
This week, the State Minister for Disaster Preparedness Esther Anyakun Davinia said that Uganda is willing to take in 2,000 refugees who are fleeing renewed instability in Afghanistan.
Uganda is among the African countries that the US has courted to host the Afghan refugees after Taliban militants ousted Ashraf Ghani’s government. The Taliban were two decades ago deposed by American troops.
According to Anyakun, Uganda expects to host the refugees temporarily for three months or longer with the emergency landing of the first group expected anytime. The first batch of 500 was expected in the country on Monday evening but these have not landed to date.
Lugazi Municipality MP Stephen Sserubula questioned why the government was only talking about Afghan refugees and not Ugandans stranded in Afghanistan.
Mr Richard Kizito Lumu, the Mityana South MP said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has to also focus more on Ugandans abroad than the well-being of refugees.
Noah Wanzaala, the Nakasongola County MP also questioned the government’s plan towards refugee-hosting communities.
Government is next week expected to present a comprehensive statement to parliament on the proposal to host Afghan refugees following Wednesday’s directive by Deputy Speaker Anita Among.