17 July 2009
KAMPALA – “I am impressed by the progress made in addressing the displacement situation in Northern Uganda, where almost 80% of the formerly 1.8 Million internally displaced persons have returned to their villages”, the Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kaelin, stated at the end of a week-long visit to Uganda.
The human rights expert expressed his appreciation for the Government’s efforts to allow the displaced to find durable solutions to their plight and welcomed the progress made in restoring security and freedom of movement in the North of the country.
However, “serious challenges remain for those remaining in camps to freely opt for return, local integration or settlement elsewhere as provided for by the Ugandan National IDP Policy and to ensure the sustainability of returns or other durable solutions”, Prof. Kaelin reiterated. “Lack of water, food, health and educational services in areas of return as well as disputes over land and property hamper return movements and their sustainability”, he added.
While impressed with Government efforts, Prof. Kaelin expressed his concern over the low impact of recovery and development activities in the North, in particular with regard to the establishment of basic services in return areas. This may create risks for stability and the durability of peace because of the dissatisfaction of returnee communities and entails also the risk of reverse movements back to camps.
The Representative of the Secretary General called on the national as well as local authorities to do their utmost to successfully implement the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for Northern Uganda and urged the international community to support recovery efforts. “The implementation of recovery projects and support for solving land conflicts would go a long way in restoring economic, social and cultural rights of those who have been deprived of their human rights for so long.”
The current food insecurity poses a risk to returning communities who already struggle to adapt to their new lives. “Enhancing the conditions necessary to improve food security in the context of changing climate patterns is essential to guarantee the sustainability of return”, the Representative said. He recommended to authorities at the district and local level and their development partners to invest further into measures restoring long-term food security, which is necessary to guarantee the right to food.
“The biggest remaining humanitarian challenge is finding durable solutions for extremely vulnerable individuals among the displaced, in particular those left behind in camps. Reintegration of these individuals into their communities is critical and camp phase out will become a very difficult process without robust and concerted efforts of returnee communities, local authorities and humanitarian agencies to welcome them back in their villages“ , the Representative said.
“Elder persons without family support, individuals with disabilities, orphans and female- or children-headed households and other vulnerable individuals will face serious challenges regarding the right to food and health and they risk becoming victims of forced evictions if we do not act now.” The phase out of food distribution and the current drought exacerbate the risk for extremely vulnerable individuals to become the first hunger victims.
The Representative of the Secretary General called upon donors to continue to support humanitarian as well as recovery and development efforts. “Quick impact is needed now to find solutions for all the displaced and to consolidate peace in Northern Uganda where communities have been affected by a long and brutal armed conflict and lived in displacement for over 20 years”, he stressed at the end of his visit.
During his visit to Uganda from 13-17 July 2009 the Representative met with the Prime Minister, key ministers and other relevant governmental authorities at the national, district and local levels. He also consulted with heads of United Nations Agencies and other international organizations, camp phase out committees, the Ugandan Human Rights Commission and civil society. In the Acholi sub-region, the Representative visited camps, transit sites and areas of return in Gulu and Pader district, where he met with the displaced and returnees.