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Minister: Ugandans have refused to leave Afghanistan

The number of Ugandans in Afghanistan is unknown.

Ugandan Foreign Minister Gen Jeje Odongo has told local media that nationals have refused to leave Afghanistan despite government efforts to try to evacuate them.

The last batch of US evacuees departed Hamid Karzai International Airport on Monday afternoon  completing a massive evacuation effort that flew more than 116,000 people out of Afghanistan over the past two weeks.

That evacuation did not factor in all foreign nationals living and working in the restive middle eastern country.

The minister told lawmakers that the August 6th take over of Kabul by the Talibans happened too fast, but being mindful of the danger posed to foreigners, Uganda joined other 60 nations calling on Taliban to ensure safe evacuation of foreign nationals.

Odongo said that government took every effort to look out for all Ugandans trapped in Afghanistan and have since established that there are also some Ugandans who are unwilling to return.

“They simply say we are okay, we don’t want to leave, so we can’t force them to leave. The evacuation of Ugandans is done voluntarily, we aren’t forcing anyone to leave Afghanistan,” said Odongo.

The number of Ugandans in Afghanistan is unknown. However, Odongo says that there were some 10 Ugandans evacuated by United Nations (UN) on flights to UK and six of these arrived in Uganda. He also says they established the presence of three more Ugandans who are willing to be evacuated and arrangements were made to have them evacuated.

Odongo said that one of those three Ugandans has been evacuated with a US aircraft and is in Berlin, Germany, with the ministry of Foreign Affairs is reportedly offering the necessary assistance to get him back to Uganda.

According to the ministry of Gender, some Ugandans were evacuated in April 2020 during the COVID-19 worldwide lockdown, and it is not clear how many have remained.

The minister also gave an update of the 51 refugees that arrived last week, saying the request to host the Afghan nationals is temporary and the group is undergoing quarantine as part of the measures to contain the spread of Covid-19. He however says they do not know how long Afghanistan refugees are going to be staying.

The U.S. began its war in Afghanistan in October 2001, weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11. The Taliban at the time provided sanctuary to al-Qaeda, the group that planned and carried out the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Since then, about 2,500 U.S. service members have died in the conflict, which also claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Afghan troops, police personnel and civilians.

The Taliban are yet again in power.