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New Congolese arrivals in Uganda

Briefing notes

New Congolese arrivals in Uganda

19 January 2001

UNHCR has opened two transit camps in Bundibugyo District in western Uganda to receive more than 6,000 incoming refugees fleeing violent clashes between rival ethnic groups in north-eastern Congo. UNHCR workers on the scene confirmed the arrival of 6,000 Hima people who fled the Ituri district west of Bunia after fighting erupted between the Hima and the Lendu, traditional adversaries. The 6,000 are scattered in villages in the border area of Bundibugyo. They brought with them 25,000 head of cattle. A UNHCR official who visited the area last week reported that an estimated 1,000 refugees had crossed the Semliki River, south of Lake Albert, by swimming across the river with their cattle herds. Another group reportedly crossed the border further to the north and are now scattered along a 50-km stretch between Ntoroko and Rubashiengu, some 90 kilometres north of Bundibugyo.

UNHCR is considering the transfer of newly arrived refugees to the Kyaka refugee camp, which already has a population of 2,200, mostly Congolese.

This is not the first time fighting has erupted between the Hima and Lendu ethnic groups. Similar clashes in the past have triggered refugee movements into Uganda but the displaced populations usually returned to the DRC after a few weeks.

While the conflict between the two groups is long-standing, it has been compounded of late by the easy availability of firearms in the DRC, which has been embroiled in civil war for the past two and a half years.

Uganda was hosting 8,000 Congolese refugees before the latest arrivals, and 216,000 refugees overall, mostly from Sudan. There are also an estimated 100,000 internally displaced people in Bundibugyo District.