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From left to right, South Sudanese refugee Thomas Wani, his brother Peter Lemi, his mother Rose Sunday and his father Julius Lezu enter Uganda at the Busia crossing, near Kuluba, northern Uganda, June 8, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Uganda Went From Being a Model of Refugee Response to a Cautionary Tale

Monday, Dec. 10, 2018

The international community has long lauded Uganda for its response to the massive influx of South Sudanese refugees who have fled across the border since the start of that country’s conflict in 2013. As the number of arrivals climbed into the hundreds of thousands, Kampala maintained an open-door policy and committed increasing amounts of land for agencies to construct temporary settlements and for refugees to build permanent shelters. The country opened up its schools and health clinics to the new arrivals. At a time when other countries around the world were taking steps to prevent asylum-seekers from even reaching their borders, Uganda was held up as an exemplar of humanitarianism.

It turns out Uganda’s response might have been exceptional in other ways. According to a newly released internal audit from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, Uganda’s response from mid-2016 until the end of 2017 was plagued by lapses in accountability and disregard for basic institutional safeguards. The result is that millions of dollars in expenditures, including $320,000 for a piece of land now being used as a parking lot by the office of Uganda’s prime minister, are being examined, even as UNHCR has to shell out additional millions to rectify problems stemming either from fraud or incompetence. ...

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