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High Commissioner Guterres visits northern Uganda

Briefing notes

High Commissioner Guterres visits northern Uganda

21 June 2005

Today, the new High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, is on the second leg of his three-day visit to Uganda to see for himself the situation of refugees in northern Uganda, a country he praised yesterday for its generosity in hosting refugees.

Mr Guterres is visiting Palorinya, a refugee settlement on the Nile, to meet new arrivals from Sudan who have fled recent incursions into south Sudan by the Ugandan rebels known as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Guterres will also visit some of the 1.5 million Ugandans who have been displaced within their own country because of LRA attacks.

Since January, almost 9,000 people, mainly women and children, have arrived in the Arua area of northern Uganda from south Sudan, including those in Palorinya. The recent arrivals say they stayed in their own country for the entire 21 years of the civil war in South Sudan, and only fled in recent months because of the LRA attacks. Refugees say they especially fear the LRA's practice of recruiting children as soldiers, bearers and sex slaves.

The continuing influx into Uganda is a concern at a time when we are planning to start our repatriation to southern Sudan in early October, following the signing of a peace accord in January. Sudanese refugees in Uganda have expressed only limited interest in returning, and we are expecting only some 6,000 to repatriate in 2005 out of a total 204,400 Sudanese refugees in the country.