OCTOBER 22, 2009: Leaders to Improve Refugee Conditions

Leaders to Improve Refugee Conditions

SOURCE: New Vision

By Cyprian Musoke And Milton Olupot

Kampala — AFRICAN countries need to build strong institutions of the army, the police, intelligence and judiciary to forestall wars that cause displacement, President Yoweri Museveni said yesterday.

"One problem I get when talking with the West is that they don't think a strong state matters. They tend to think you can preach to terrorists in church and they reform. We need to build strong state institutions," he said.

Addressing the African Union Heads of State summit on refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons yesterday, Museveni said while some wars are justified, others are not.

"In dealing with this problem (of displacement), conflicts themselves must be defined since they are not the same. Some are just, while others are unjust. Just wars are legitimate because they involve fighting for justice," he said, citing the decolonisation wars.

The other issue to be considered in conflicts, he added, is the methods used to fight, noting that targeting women and children was unacceptable.

"This is what distinguishes a freedom fighter from a terrorist. Even when a just cause exists, you must exhaust all peaceful methods before you resort to violence."

The main solution to the problems of displacement, he noted, is ensuring that conflicts do not erupt, and if they do, ensuring that they are resolved amicably. He criticised the so-called mediators for failing to tackle the root causes.

"They mostly misdiagnose the causes and prescribe wrong medicines, hence those conflicts are not resolved or in many cases resolved unsatisfactorily."

He cited the struggle for independence of Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the end of apartheid rule in South Africa as conflicts where the root causes were addressed.

"Africans wanted independence and South Africans wanted majority rule. Those were the causes of conflict. If they were not resolved, the conflicts would still be going on today."

In whatever kind of war, Museveni stressed, there is need to provide food, health care and safe water for those displaced.

As agricultural land becomes scarce, he added, there is also need to equip the refugees with vocational skills to enable them work in the urban centers even when they return to their areas of origin.

Refugees should have a right to return to their countries of origin as well as a right to be granted citizenship in the countries of refuge, he further argued...

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