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UNHCR to assist and relocate refugees fleeing Uganda camp attack

UNHCR to assist and relocate refugees fleeing Uganda camp attack

The UN refugee agency, together with the Ugandan government and the World Food Programme, rushes to help Sudanese refugees displaced by rebel attack on Acholi-Pii camp.
6 August 2002

KAMPALA, Uganda, August 6 (UNHCR) - Following Monday's rebel attack on a refugee camp in northern Uganda, UNHCR today sent a team to the troubled area with plans to deliver food, medicine and a relocation programme to the fleeing refugees.

Monday's pre-dawn attack on Acholi-Pii camp by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) killed at least 14 people and dispersed 24,000 Sudanese refugees into surrounding areas. Four local aid workers were abducted.

On Tuesday, the UN refugee agency and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) sent a team to the affected area to assess the situation. They were working to deliver food and medicine to an estimated 15,000 people now gathered at Rachkoko, 15-20 km south of Acholi-Pii. The delivery could start as early as Tuesday night.

"We are now trying together with the Ugandan authorities to gather the groups of frightened refugees and begin the process of moving them to the safer site," said UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski at a press briefing Tuesday in Geneva.

Under a plan of action agreed between the refugee agency and Ugandan government, Acholi-Pii's displaced inhabitants will be relocated in three phases. First, the main group from Rachkoko will be moved to Lira, where they will join the couple of thousands who have reached Lira on their own, and remain there for two to three days. UNHCR will provide the transportation and the government will secure the 40-km road between Rachkoko and Lira.

The whole group will then be moved to Kiryondongo in central Uganda, where they will undergo new registration in order to assess how many refugees have been able to escape and regroup since Monday's attack. They will be hosted in a transit centre in Kiryondongo for a month while the government identifies a new site to be prepared by UNHCR. This new site will be situated either in Nebbi or Yumbe districts in the north, or in Kyangwali in Hoima district in the west.

Food and domestic items will be provided during the relocation operation.

Meanwhile, details of Monday's attack on Acholi-Pii remain sketchy. According to the camp manager, who toured the area briefly in an army helicopter late Monday, at least 14 people - eight refugees and six Ugandans - were killed in the attack. But he added that the actual toll could be much higher. Two local female schoolteachers and two staff from UNHCR's partner agency, International Rescue Committee, are presumed abducted.

The camp manager said Acholi-Pii appeared to be deserted, adding, "The only thing I saw were ducks and chickens running in the compound."

The LRA rebels stole goods and food from the camp's warehouse, including wheat flour, 800 cases of cooking oil and corn soya blend. "WFP recently delivered $150,000-worth of food to Acholi-Pii, so the rebels may have been targeting the food aid and medical supplies," said UNHCR's Janowski.

The attackers also burned five vehicles and the staff quarters and destroyed office equipment. The compound of the Diocese of Torit, which is based in Acholi-Pii, was also set ablaze. UNHCR has advised that the displaced refugees should not return to the insecure camp.

There are 155,000 Sudanese refugees living in settlements in northern Uganda. The region has been unstable for some 15 years. LRA's attacks and horrific tactics - mutilating people and kidnapping them to serve as porters or as sham "wives" - have displaced more than 500,000 Ugandans within the country.