Lubbers reassures displaced Sudanese in Uganda
KIRYANDONGO, Uganda, April 14 (UNHCR) - UN refugee agency chief Ruud Lubbers has reassured thousands of displaced Sudanese refugees in Uganda that UNHCR will work with the government to ensure a safe alternative site for them within the country.
On a three-day mission to Uganda over the weekend, Lubbers visited Kiryandongo camp in Masindi district, some 145 km from the capital, Kampala. The camp hosts more than 30,000 Sudanese refugees, including more than 16,000 who had fled a series of rebel attacks on Achol-Pii camp, further north, last August.
The Achol-Pii attacks had displaced some 24,000 refugees in all, but 8,600 of them were transferred from Kiryandongo to Kyangwali refugee settlement in Hoima district last September.
Empathising with the Kiryandongo refugees' concerns about the Achol-Pii influx, Lubbers said, "How do you live in peace together? How do you cope with the congestion? It's not easy, but up to now you have managed. Still, we have to find solutions."
He added, "This is a hospitable country and they provide the refugees with land. The government and the people of Uganda want to extend that hospitality to other sites. But the first step is to make these sites safe and secure. And only then it is possible to move on."
He stressed that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Second Deputy Prime Minister, Moses Ali, have worked very hard to make the overall situation safer.
"We are there to protect you," he said of UNHCR's role in the new site for Achol-Pii's refugees. "We will not let you down. We will go with you where the hospitality is offered, but these places must be safe as well."
During his trip to Kiryandongo, the High Commissioner heard the refugees' concerns about the lack of funds for education, the poor market system for their agricultural produce, the need for more income-generating activities and skills training facilities, as well as the lack of jobs for skilled refugees.
He witnessed the makeshift quality of schools when he sat in on a lesson conducted in the open for the young refugees from Achol-Pii. He also visited a homestead run by a Sudanese refugee who has been in Uganda for 12 years, and received a gift of honey, beans and maize. The head of the family told Lubbers that he is now close to producing enough to sell, but lamented that he has to struggle to put his children though school.
Besides visiting Kiryandongo, Lubbers also met with Uganda's President Museveni, senior government officials and representatives of other UN agencies in the country before leaving for Kenya on Sunday.