In northern Uganda, UN refugee head vows to do more for displaced

5 March 2008

On his visit to northern Uganda, where an estimated 850,000 people live in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), the head of the United Nations refugee agency pledged more support for the return of those driven from their homes by decades of violence.

“All of us in the international community are ready to work in support of the Ugandan Government,” António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told hundreds of IDPs gathered in a dusty football field in Kalongo, which he visited with Minister Jean-Louis Schiltz of Luxembourg, UNHCR’s largest donor per capita.

“If we join hands, if we work together it will be possible to make sure that roads, water, education and health facilities are built,” Mr. Guterres added.

Two decades of fighting between the Ugandan Government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) drove almost two million people from their homes in northern Uganda and devastated infrastructure and services.

An estimated one million people have returned home over the past 18 months as talks take place in Sudan in an attempt to end the violence, UNHCR said.

Mr. Guterres, who was in Kalongo on the second day of his eight-day visit to Uganda and Tanzania, also visited a transit centre in eastern Uganda which houses some 1,600 of the nearly 12,000 Kenyans who fled the violence that erupted in their country after elections in late December.

The High Commissioner welcomed the recent signing of a political settlement in Kenya and said he hoped this might spur the return home of the refugees. He called for forgiveness on all sides, saying it was needed for reconciliation.

“Justice and forgiveness, that is what you need to be able to return and live in peace in your communities. The international community must step in and support your efforts towards reconciliation,” he told the Kenyan refugees.

 

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UN refugee chief to head to Uganda and Tanzania

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees will embark on an 8-day mission next week to Uganda and Tanzania to assess the situation of refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).