Rebel raids in Uganda drive hundreds of Sudanese home
KAJO KEJI, Uganda, April 30 (UNHCR) - Hundreds of Sudanese refugees have crossed back into their homeland after fleeing raids by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) on refugee settlements that have displaced more than 25,000 refugees in northern Uganda.
According to border officials monitoring the Kajo Keji border crossing, more than 500 Sudanese have gone back to southern Sudan in fear of further rebel attacks in the Adjumani and Moyo districts of northern Uganda. The UN refugee agency has recorded 25 raids by the LRA in the last three months.
Refugee leaders told UNHCR that up to 80 percent of the 32,000 refugees who had lived in Uganda's Zoka forest south of Adjumani town have left for the safety of refugee settlements 30 km north of Adjumani. Some are cycling 30 km back to their original settlements in the daytime to retrieve belongings they had left behind or to tend to their crops.
UNHCR, together with the Ugandan government and partner agencies, started a registration campaign this week in eight areas north of Adjumani town and four zones in Moyo district where the displaced refugees are living with relatives in existing settlements. The refugee agency believes that many refugees took their food rations with them when they fled their settlements, easing their most immediate needs.
The registration, which is scheduled to be completed this weekend, should offer a clearer picture of the scale of displacement, enabling aid agencies like the World Food Programme to distribute shelter items, clothing and other forms of assistance.
The recent attacks are not limited to refugee settlements as Ugandan villages have also been raided. UNHCR understands that the Ugandan government has sent four battalions of troops to restore order in the Adjumani region.
"We hope that the additional security measures will enable the displaced refugees to go back to their settlements. As they raise much of their own food and this is planting season, it is urgent for them to look after their small farms in order to avoid further hardship," said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond at a press briefing in Geneva Friday.
Last week, UNHCR relocated its staff from its office south of Adjumani town following an LRA raid on a nearby site. The agency's staff are returning every day to monitor the situation.
The refugee agency cares for 173,000 Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda. Many live in settlements west of the Nile River, while some 32,000 refugees lived in the area around the Zoka forest where they are exposed to LRA raids.