#Afghanistan is the most trending subject on social media this week. The hint by the State minister for refugees, Ms Esther Anyakun that Uganda would receive at least 2000 Afghan refugees, who were to be evacuated by the US government, excited Ugandans. Quickly, the internet was awash with memes and jokes about their impending arrival.
“Very soon, we shall have some mixed blood children. You will find Abdusalam Byaruhanga who will be slaying on twitter in 20 years that she is half Afghan and half Mukiga”, went one viral tweet. Others shared images of a hypothetical refugee population of cute ladies at several places in Kampala.
Much as the images were a result of pregnant imagination, our hospitality for tourists and refugees alike is not doubtable. Driving through some suburbs, you will find several areas dominated by nationalities, many of whom came as refugees. Areas of places like Kabalagala, Kansanga, Bunga are dominated by restaurants and businesses for these communities. There are many shops and supermarkets with sign posts written in Aramaic, Juba Arabic e.t.c. to cater for Ethiopian, Eritrean and South Sudanese population. We have Nigerian and Congolese in some specific areas. If you have houses around the area, the majority of the tenants you will get will be foreign.
All nationalities are free to buy land (much as legally they are not allowed to do so), do business, marry and be married. They can start companies and worship as they wish. Our police actually respect them at road blocks and many will be given way while a local will be questioned. I believe it’s in our culture. We treat visitors well. We make sure they are well. We get out of our way to make them comfortable.
What baffles me is that the same is not reciprocated in their countries. Anyone who has tried to do business in South Sudan will tell you that you need at least 30% ownership by a local. So many Ugandans had to get local partners to co-own companies with, just to do business. Often, these people turn around and take over the business. The police and army often aren’t eager to help. The same applies to Ethiopia. Many sections of businesses are reserved for locals. You can’t easily buy land and often you are seen as a foreigner.
The same befalls you when you go to Tanzania. Under the deceased President JP Magufuli, many Ugandans had to leave because the jobs were being ring fenced for locals. I am told that the situation is now better but you still feel a foreigner in these countries.
Yet here, anyone, regardless of where they are from, can do business, study, get a job with no fear of persecution. You feel at home when away at home. No wonder, many don’t want to go back. Actually, very soon, Uganda will be like the USA. We shall have Indian-Ugandans, Somali-Ugandans, Ethiopian-Ugandans, Afghan-Ugandans etc. We will be the UN nation.
The leadership of these refugee populations need to go back home and tell their people that our hospitality needs to be reciprocated in those communities. Our people need to feel as safe in Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Afghanistan e.tc. as their people do here.
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