Arua City Commemorates World Refugee Day, Highlighting the Plight of Urban Refugees

July 1, 2024

By City Communication Team( Consolate Olemaru, Martin Bileni, Hamza Abasi)

Arua City Council and Development Partners commemorated a belated World Refugee Day on Friday, June 28, 2024 at OPM grounds in Arua City. According to Arua City Clerk, David Kyasanku, more than 24,000 refugees and migrants, primarily from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a few from Sudan, reside in Arua City. 

The City Clerk explained that the Council is struggling to provide essential services, such as healthcare and education, due to limited resources, as the urban refugees have not been included in the city's resource allocation.

Joseph Afeti, the Deputy Mayor of Ayivu Division, expressed his gratitude to the people of Arua City for embracing refugees and living with them in harmony. He encouraged refugees to actively participate in economic activities to improve their livelihoods.

The Zande Community from South Sudan presenting the the Azande Cultural Dance.

Representing the City Mayor at the Refugee Day commemoration, Inzikuru Millicent Milly, Deputy Mayor of Arua City, appealed to UNHCR and OPM to fully acknowledge the presence of refugees in Arua City. She called for increased assistance to enable the city to deliver better education, health, and other essential services to the refugees and residents alike. 

Sam Ejibua, the Resident Program Manager VNG International and a key partner in organizing the commemoration, emphasized that the day was dedicated to showing solidarity with urban refugees. He underlined the challenges they face, such as discrimination in accessing health and education services. Ejibua urged the Government to adopt a dynamic and adaptable approach to policy-making and implementation, taking into account the reality of the situation at hand. 

Many people think the refugees in urban areas are well off and able to manage challenges they face but not true.” Ejibua noted

Wilson Were, a South Sudanese refugee who is studying at Arua Hill Primary School in Arua City, expressed his gratitude to the Ugandan government and the leadership of Arua City for providing a supportive learning environment. 

“I thank the government and City Education office for giving Arua Hill a good Manager (Headteacher) who has made us feel at home. She brings people to talk to us and treats us equally with other pupils. Even we participate in all school programs like sports and school leadership.” Were disclosed. 

Were appealed to the leaders to enable the refugees to pay the same school fees as the nationals, saying they are overwhelmed with other expenses like rent.

Pupils of Arua Public Primary School singing a welcome song.

Meanwhile, leaders of the South Sudanese and Congolese Refugee Association of Arua City (SSURA and CORA), hailed Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, describing him as a father figure. They acknowledged the freedom and opportunities provided to them by the Ugandan government, emphasizing that they could enjoy things that refugees in many other countries could not. Additionally, they extended their thanks to the host communities and humanitarian organizations for ensuring their comfort. They also encouraged their fellow refugees to focus on hard work rather than dwelling on their circumstances and to avoid conflicts among themselves. 

Richard Adroa, the Branch Manager of Pride Microfinance in Arua, revealed that a partnership between the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and Pride Microfinance resulted in the extension of 450 million shillings in financial support to 500 refugees as of June 27. The aim is to empower them to meet their financial needs. Adroa expressed his hope to serve at least 1000 refugees by the end of this year.

Charles Ichogor, the Resident City Commissioner of Arua City, officiated as the Guest of Honour at the event and expressed gratitude to the leadership and people of Arua City for their resilience in accommodating the refugees. 

He instructed all schools within the city to apply the same school fees for both nationals and refugees, and assured that he would work with school leadership to ensure this is implemented. Ichogor emphasized the commitment of the RCC office to safeguarding the refugees and maintaining peace and safety.

“My refugees please work hard. Be disciplined and don’t get involved in criminality. Do not wait for handouts which won't be there. Also, take care against HIV/AIDS that is continually ravaging the region.” RCC Ichogor advised.

The City commissioner called on residents to participate in tree planting to make the city greener and cautioned against encroaching on wetlands, stating that any developments in wetlands would soon be demolished. He also suggested promoting the cultural dances of refugee groups to attract tourists. 

The Guest of Honor, the Resident City Commissioner, Charles Ichogor and City leaders at the event.

Solomon Osakan, the Refugee Desk Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister in Arua, expressed concern that the global funding for humanitarian support to refugees is decreasing. He highlighted the opportunities brought by the presence of refugees to the host communities. 

“While refugees add pressure to available resources and services meant for nationals, the refugees also add to the development of Uganda by buying goods and services offered by the nationals such as rent and so on.” Osakan Remarked.

Joseph Allan, the UNHCR Program Officer at the Arua Sub Office, expressed concern about Africa's leading role in producing refugees globally. He emphasized UNHCR's commitment to supporting the most vulnerable refugees in the settlements and stressed the importance of collaborating with other partners to pool resources and address refugee-related issues in the city.

The Uganda Association of Urban Authorities chair for Northern Uganda, and Mayor of Koboko Municipality, Hon Dr. Wilson Sanya, praised Arua City for its hospitality towards refugees, highlighting the city's demonstration of inclusivity and openness to all. He also emphasized the need for government resource allocation to take into account the presence of refugees in cities, revealing that all ten cities in Uganda are home to refugees. 

The Central Organizing Commitee for the Arua City World Refugee Day.

Also present at the belated Arua City World Refugee Day celebration was the Vice President of Uganda Local Governments Association also LCV Kole District, Hon Andrew Moses Awany. He thanked the community of Arua City for creating a peaceful environment for all the refugees to live in. He pledged his support towards advocacy for full recognition of Urban in Uganda.

Andrew Otim Kibwota, the Commissioner of Urban Inspection at the Ministry of Local Government pledged to present issues raised at the commemoration for discussions at senior levels in the ministry to inform possible policy developments. He appealed to the development partners to not ignore the host communities while planning for the refugees so that harmonious coexistence can be possible.

On June 20, 2024, the National Celebration of World Refugee Day took place at the Rhino Camp refugee settlement in Terego District. According to UNHCR, Uganda is presently providing refuge for 1.6 million individuals. END