Help needed for Congolese refugees in Uganda, UN agency says

19 January 2005
Refugees in Uganda moving to Kyaka II settlement

Thousands of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have returned to their North Kivu villages from Uganda, but urgent help is needed for the 3,000 who remain near Lake Edward, as well as for thousands of refugees from the DRC's Ituri province, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

The 3,000 North Kivu people camping at Ishasha need food, water, sanitation and a secure location further inside Uganda, spokesman Ron Redmond of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a news conference in Geneva.

"Our main concern there is for the security of the refugees," he said. "Ishasha is only three kilometres away from the border along an unmanned border post. We have requested that the Uganda authorities set up police and army posts near the site to protect the refugees."

More than 10,000 had arrived last week from the DRC's North Kivu province because of fighting between the Mayi-Mayi militia and another so far unidentified rebel group and more than 7,000 of them had returned home, he said.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) had told UNHCR it could provide food for the Ishasha refugees, but only if they moved to a more permanent camp called Kyaka II (pronounced Tchaka), where 8,000 Congolese refugees live and which can house 10,000 more. Meanwhile, the local Ishasha authorities had exhausted their food supplies.

Between 5,000 and 7,000 Congolese had fled Ituri across Lake Albert late last week because of fighting between Hema militia from a faction of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC-L) and the Lendu people's Nationalist and Integrationist Front (FNI). They arrived in Nkondo in Uganda's Hoima District, south of Ishasha, and were unwilling to move to Kyaka II.

"The majority of them are women and children, who are reluctant to leave the border area until their husbands and fathers arrive," Mr. Redmond said. "This is a source of concern to us, since there are serious health risks for the refugees in staying where they are."

At the end of last week there were 20,000 new Congolese refugees in western Uganda, according to UNHCR.


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