The Urban IDP

Since the mid-1980s, an unknown number of Northern Ugandans have fled the 22-year-long war in the North Uganda to urban centers in the Southern Uganda in search of security. These individuals have been called “urban internally displaced persons (IDPs).”

According to a paper published in March 2008 by the Refugee Law Project (see Recent Documents), in 2004 “Uganda became one of the first countries in the world to establish a national policy for IDPs in line with the United Nation’s Guiding Principles on International Displacement.” The Peace, Recovery and Development Plan launched in 2007 was further meant to protect and assist IDPs by promising “to facilitate the voluntary return of IDPs from camps to their places of origin and/or any other location of their preference as peace returns.”

However, the above statements inevitably target the 1.5 million people who were displaced into rural IDP camps in Northern Uganda during the war. Urban IDPs, having long fled the region as their villages were pillaged and burned, more often than not, go unnoticed. Few – if any – have identification proving they are displaced persons.

The Kireka rock quarry is not an isolated phenomenon. The rock quarry actually wraps around the steep hillsides outside Kampala forming a patchwork of orange gullies and pits. Women are scattered around pounding rocks while their naked children play on dirt piles.

One example of an urban IDP camp – often wrongly labeled as a “slum” – is the Acholi Quarter, a community neighbor to the Kireka Rock Quarry. A majority of the population living here fled the war in Northern Uganda.

Like the Women of Kireka, several have expressed the desire to return home. According to the government’s promises, they have the right to facilitation. Recently, teams of elders from various urban IDP communities returned to the North to explore the possibilities of going home. However, like several of the Women of Kireka pointed out, going home is a long and expensive process that the government must be able to sustain in whole. A majority have lost their land and houses: they will have to build and plant again, and, in the meantime, survive.

If you’re interested in more information on Urban IDPs or lobbying on their behalf, please contact Refugee Law Project.


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