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UNHCR: Sudanese Refugees in Northern Uganda Flee Camp - 2002-08-07


The United Nations Refugee Agency says thousands of Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda are again on the run amidst rumors that the rebel Lord's Resistance Army may be planning an attack on their camp site. The refugees had already fled one camp after it came under attack earlier this week.

UNHCR spokesman Peter Kessler said aid workers in northern Uganda were told that Lord's Resistance rebels were operating around Rachkoko. He noted Rachkoko is a place where thousands of refugees took refuge after the rebels attacked their camp at Acholi-Pii on Monday.

"Late on Tuesday, we told the Acholi-Pii camp manager who was also sheltering in Rachkoko to lead the refugees at that site further south towards Lira," said Mr. Kessler. "And, right now, he is on the ground with some 15,000 to 17,000 refugees proceeding 60 kilometers on foot to escape the areas where the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels have reportedly been operating."

The Acholi-Pii camp had housed 24,000 Sudanese refugees. All of them fled after the pre-dawn raid on Monday in which at least 38 people were killed. Several thousand refugees have not yet been located by the U.N. aid workers and Ugandan officials who were sent out to look for them. Mr. Kessler said it will take about a day or two before the refugees on the move from Rachkoko reach the town of Lira.

The U.N. agency is setting up a temporary camp there. The UNHCR official said the agency plans to transport these people within the next few weeks to a new camp in Kyangwali which is far from the conflict zone.

"Kyangwali should be very safe from the LRA rebels," said Mr. Kessler. "And that is what the refugees in this region of Uganda need as well as the local population is safety because the LRA has been operating throughout this region for the last 15 years, mutilating their victims, be they refugees or Ugandan citizens, taking people as porters and forcing women into sham marriages."

Mr. Kessler says the UNHCR has asked the Ugandan government to provide security for the refugees during their long march. He says the agency has sent out trucks to collect the weakest people. In addition, he says food and other needed supplies are being shipped into the area.