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Uganda: 30,000 displaced after recent camp attacks

Briefing notes

Uganda: 30,000 displaced after recent camp attacks

13 September 2002

Following three attacks by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) on refugee settlements in Uganda in just two months, UNHCR now is involved in trying to move some 30,000 Sudanese refugees to safer locations.

UNHCR already had its hands full with an operation to move 24,000 Sudanese refugees who fled a brutal rebel attack on Acholi-Pii refugee camp in northern Uganda on August 5, when a new attack last Monday on another refugee settlement displaced an additional 6,000 refugees and stretched limited resources still further.

Monday's attack on Maaji settlement in Adjumani district of north-western Uganda was the second assault on that settlement. The first was July, when six refugees were killed The latest attack on seven of a total of some 24 sites in Maaji left at least one refugee woman injured, while about 20 were abducted to help the marauding rebels carry home their loot. Twelve of the abducted refugees are still unaccounted for. The 6,000 refugees displaced by the most recent attack are reported to be traumatised and very scared.

The refugees have indicated they may try to return to southern Sudan unless they can rapidly be transported to safer locations. Most of the displaced come from seven of 24 different sites in Maaji, but refugees - mainly women and children

- from the other sites are also now reported to be fleeing the settlement.

A joint team of United Nations agencies operating in the area, including UNHCR, visited the displaced who are seeking temporary shelter in schools, shelters and clinics around the outskirts of the attacked settlement. Some cases of diarrhoea and respiratory diseases were observed. Health clinics report a huge increase in workload and fear a drug shortage if numbers keep increasing and staff are now reluctant to remain overnight.

Rebels of the LRA - a semi-religious group led by a self-proclaimed prophet have gone on the rampage in many parts of northern Uganda in recent weeks, killing indiscriminately and looting villages in their path. On August 5, the rebels raided Achol-Pii - a camp of nearly 24,000 refugees - leaving more than 50 people dead. The attack displaced the entire camp population, which fled into adjacent forest areas. These displaced refugees are currently being resettled into alternative sites in other parts of the country.

UNHCR says more than 5,000 of these have now been transferred to Kyangwali refugee camp, close to Lake Albert. UNHCR officials said that operation was moving ahead smoothly and that by Saturday the transfer of some 8,000 expected to be resettled at Kyangwali should have been completed. Meanwhile, UNHCR and Uganda government officials are examining the feasibility of other sites proposed by the government for the resettlement of the other remaining Acholi-Pii refugees, as there is no further room at Kyangwali.