Women Of Kireka- Uganda’s Internally displaced refugees

The current President of Uganda came to power in 1985 in a bloody civil war that saw the end of  the rule of Milton Obote’s UPC party. Whilst the rest of the country has enjoyed relative peace for most of that time this has not been the case in Northern Uganda in fact if you visited the North and South a few years ago you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in fact in two different countries altogether.

The 20 year war against Kony, he of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) created several refugees within the country and some of these made their way to other parts of the country.

A chance encounter of twitter with @tmsruge last year led me directly to the door step of internally displaced refuges. That you can be a refuge in your own country sounds like an oxymoron if I ever heard one but there we are.

The Women and their children from northern Uganda settled on a quarry in Kireka a suburb of Kampala and thus the name of the project WOMEN OF KIREKA and here is a conversation I had with Tracy Pell founding member of Project Diaspora

The question I put to Tracey was very simple-  What is the story behind the quarry, how and why did you guys get involved in this group and how did they end up here?

Tracey: The story behind the quarry is a bit hard to dig up. There are rumors that it is owned by a member of the royal family living in the UK, or that it recently got bought by a large European conglomerate. Neither Teddy nor I have ever gotten a clear story on that. We probably should try a little harder to find out the real story there.

The women ended up there because they were escaping the war in Northern Uganda. Most of the women’s husbands were kidnapped by the LRA and many of them had their villages destroyed. They escaped to IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps in Kitgum. As you know those camps were pretty crowded etc and so they came to Kampala to get further away from the conflict and the relatively less crowded IDP camp in Kireka.

When Teddy was in Uganda a bit over a year ago we learned of the IPD camp and the quarry from several sources. Glenna Gordon (aka Uganda’s Scarlett Lion) an American journalist living and working in Kampala at the time she had worked on a story about the quarry and then Teddy met Siena Anstis (now one of our team members) and she had met Beatrice a woman working for a local NGO Nuwechi. This group works mostly in Gulu with women in IDP camps, but had this single project in Kampala with these displaced women working in the Quarry. They had done some ground work with the women and have an existing strong relationship with them (Beatrice speaks their language and is from Gulu). so we got involved and incorporated them into the Project Diaspora.

The goal of the program is to provide the women with skills by which they can earn living wage, support themselves and their children, without the dangers presented to them by the work in the quarry. The pay in the quarry is also extremely low and does not begin to provide a living wage for the women and their families. Most make about 2000 shillings (70p) a day at most. Here is the story about the Quarry that was filed with AP:

Following this conversation with Tracey I agreed to get involved by introducing the women’s jewellery to the UK. I got to meet Tracey in person when she visited the UK in October 2009 exactly 4 months following this conversation and in December  of the same year I met up with Teddy in Uganda  who took me down to the quarry to visit the women. You can hear the women’s story on the video below.

The moral of this story was raised by Tony Burkson in his post African needs more Aid, the Women of Kireka found themselves run out  of their homes by a war that they did not start and possibly didn’t understand and although an awful   lot of money was raised for people such as them it did not reach them and as such they have  had to eek out a living on a quarry. This is a typical example of why Aid doesn’t  work and other ways of ending poverty are required.

Will there be a time when we don’t have Internally displaced refugees, DARFUR, Somalia or DR Congo


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