This paper addresses the complexity of studying the coloniality of humanitarianism and present-day relationships of power and authority in refugee settings. Building on 13 months of fieldwork, it presents an ethnographic account of the 2018 refugee corruption scandal in Uganda and the Nakivale Refugee Settlement. The core of this paper’s argument is based on a grounded analysis of how ‘the saga’ not only exposed corruptive practices in the country’s refugee programme, but also the meanings of being ‘human’ and what this implies for making claims to humanitarian authority. The paper asserts that the way in which the scandal unravelled in the (inter)national media, and how it affected sociopolitical tensions in the camp, revealed a deeply fraught conception of both human and humanitarian duality, embedded in a coloniality of power. Ultimately, power imbalances, frictions, and conflicts between national, international, and refugee actors highlighted a deep-rooted and historical struggle for humanity and legitimate humanitarian authority.

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