Refugees in Uganda: a historic overview


Uganda has a long tradition of hosting refugees

  • Before its independence Uganda hosted European refugees fleeing conflict and violence.
  • Soon after the end of World War II, the British colonial administration offered refuge to thousands of Polish nationals. Some were resettled in various parts of the country; others moved to Tanzania and other countries.
  • Uganda hosted refugees from other European countries including German, Italy, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, France and Malta (Jallow et al. 2004).
  • The British government invited Zionist leaders in Europe to settle Jewish people fleeing from persecutin in the north-eastern part of Uganda. The offer was owever eventually rejected after Jewish repreentation visited the area intended for their resettlement, preferring instead to go to their "Promised Land" in Palestine.

Uganda has hosted an average of about 161,000 refugees since the 1950s

  • In 1955, after the collapse of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium of the Sudan, the Anyanya rebellion (the First Sudanese Civil War) led to the influx of 80,000 Sudanese refugees into Uganda.
  • These early refugees were largely and spontaneously settled in northern uganda, with some heading to urban centres like Kampala and Jinja, where significant communities of Sudanese Nubians were already residing.
  • Seventeen years later, in 1972, following the Addis Ababa Accords, most of the Sudanese repatriated to Sudan.
  • The second major influx of refugees took place in 1959, when about 80,000 refugees came from what was then the Belgian United Nations mandate Territory of Rwanda.
  • To accommodate these refugees, the first gazetted refugee ettlement was established in Oruchinga in south-western Uganda.
  • Following the independence of Uganda in 1962, refugees from the newly independent states of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo continued to flow into Uganda, leading to the establishment of more gazetted settlements in Nakivale and Kyaka.

In the 1900s and 2000s two major voluntary repatriation operations temporarily reduced the number of refugees in Uganda

  • Following the 1994 genosice in Rwanda and the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan, large-scale repatriation movements facilited the voluntary return of Rwandan and Sudanese refugees to their respective countries.
  • However, Uganda continued to receive refugees from neighbouring countries due to instability.

Uganda is now Africa's leading refugee-hosting nation

  • By mid-2016 the refugee population of registered refugees in Uganda stood at 512,600, and the country was ranked at number eight refugee hosting country worldwide.
  • Since July 2016, the population of refugees in Uganda has more than doubled to over 1.2 million.
  • As a result, Uganda is now ranked number three refugee hosting country in the world.