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The Comfort of Strangers

Jinmi Adisa


Uganda: When Refuqees Go Home?

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1. Background : The pre-exodus situation

The case of refugees in Uganda1 presents a sharp contrast to that of Tanzania. Whereas Tanzania has hosted a massive influx of Rwandans, Uganda experienced an exodus. The burden of the refugee presence in Tanzania is immediate and material. The situation in Uganda is political.

Uganda has been a refuge for fleeing Rwandans for more than 30 years. Between 1959 and 1964 almost half of the Rwandans that fled from Rwanda — about 100,000 — went to Uganda. By 1991, Catherine Watson estimated that the number of Rwandans in Uganda was about 1.3 million out of a population of 18 million.2 Three main population groups in Uganda were identified :

  • 450 000 Ugandan Banyarwandan, i.e., indigenous Ugandans who are descendants of Rwandan families who found themselves in Uganda as a result of the colonial partition of 1918.
  • 650 000 economic migrants who came to find work in Uganda
  • 84 000 refugees (UNHCR registered figures for 1992)

Most of the refugees were in South...

© Institut français de recherche en Afrique, 1995

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