Congolese refugees who fled to Uganda start to return home, says UN agency

8 December 2006

Most of the estimated 12,000 people who fled across the border from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Uganda earlier this week to escape violent clashes between Government troops and rebel forces have returned now that the fighting has subsided, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

Only about 4,000 Congolese remain in the south-western Ugandan town of Kisoro, and no new arrivals have been reported in the past few days, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a press briefing in Geneva.

The refugees, mainly women and children, fled to Uganda after clashes erupted about 100 kilometres north of Goma in North Kivu province in the far east of the vast DRC, close to the Ugandan border.

Most of the refugees have been living in local schools and churches in Kisoro, but some are also sleeping on the porches of private homes, Ms. Pagonis said, adding that about 950 moved to Nyakabanda, a site south of Kisoro. Health authorities have started vaccinating the child refugees and UNHCR is working with local officials and the Ugandan Red Cross on installing latrines and basic shelter.

This week’s influx is the second of its kind this year. In January and February about 17,000 Congolese entered Uganda to escape fighting near their homes. Although the majority of that group returned home as soon as the clashes ended, some 3,500 remained in Uganda and were later moved to a refugee settlement at Nakevale.

Ms. Pagonis said there are 23,000 Congolese refugees living in Uganda, many of whom fled during the long and brutal civil war in the DRC.


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