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Uganda: More reported on their way from D.R. Congo

Briefing notes

Uganda: More reported on their way from D.R. Congo

20 May 2003

UNHCR estimates that nearly 20,000 people have fled to Uganda following ethnic clashes in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and more are reportedly on their way. Over the weekend, UNHCR and partner agency staff found an estimated 10,000 Congolese refugees encamped on northern shores of Lake Albert in Uganda's Nebbi District, in addition to more than 9,000 detected several days earlier in another area on the southern shores of the border lake. There are growing fears that more refugees could be on their way to Uganda, trying to tag on to Ugandan forces as they pull out of the strife-torn Ituri region. Some of the withdrawing troops reportedly arrived in Nebbi District on Monday, followed by hundreds of new refugees.

Many of the recent arrivals in Nebbi district are ethnic Hema and Alur. Local authorities said many of them have come from Mahagi, Bunia and Beni, less than 300 km across the border in north-eastern DRC. Significant numbers are living with friends and relatives and are unwilling to move to areas specially designated by the Ugandan government.

In some of the areas visited over the weekend, the refugees had mingled with the local community and were difficult to trace. Local authorities were unable to locate them. In one town, the local councillor said many of the 3,000 Congolese refugees in his sub-county were women, children and older men. He recounted reports that younger men were being prevented from leaving Ituri or being forcefully conscripted by the rebel Union Patriotique du Congo (UPC).