The United States uses the services of Uganda for its evacuation of people from Afghanistan. Ugandan and American authorities announced a special charter plane landed in the East African country on Wednesday morning. Uganda said there were 51 evacuees on board.
Hundreds of more people are likely to arrive in the coming days. According to Uganda, the intention is that the evacuees will be temporarily received before they move to the US or another destination. The US embassy in Uganda has made no official statement about a possible relocation.
Uganda has opened its borders at the request of Washington, which is reportedly paying for the shelter. According to local authorities, the evacuees are being accommodated in a hotel in the city of Entebbe, near the national airport.
The US embassy points in its statement to Uganda’s “long tradition” of taking in refugees. Uganda is currently home to 1.5 million refugees, more than any other African country. Most of these refugees come from South Sudan and Congo. By now stepping in Afghanistan, Uganda’s government is once again demonstrating its willingness to cooperate on issues of “international concern,” the US said.
But there is also criticism left and right: by working closely with Uganda, Washington legitimizes a regime that keeps its own population firmly in line. Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has been in power for 35 years.
Museveni often manages to ward off Western criticism of his dictatorship by invoking his role as a regional handyman. This role is expressed through the reception of refugees and in Museveni’s decision to deploy his army in Somalia, where the extremist Al-Shabaab group is active.
The arrival of the evacuees from Afghanistan comes days after the Museveni government put more than 50 NGOs in Uganda on hold, officially because their paperwork was not in order. Some of the NGOs work in the field of human rights and democracy. Washington will have a hard time condemning this “oppression” now that Uganda has granted a “favour” to the US on Afghanistan, political analyst Rashid Abdi said.
Uganda belongs to a group of more than ten countries that, according to the US, are prepared to take in (temporary) refugees from Afghanistan. The list includes Albania, Poland and Ukraine. In Africa, in addition to Uganda, Rwanda would also like to cooperate. Unfortunately, the Rwandan regime is also a partner of the West.
Uganda was in the news about three years ago because of the inclusion of deported asylum seekers from Israel. Uganda took over a group of Eritreans and Sudanese in exchange for unconfirmed favors – there would have been money, and possibly weapons. Human rights groups condemned the forced relocation. Rwanda denied it had made a similar deal with Israel.