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UNHCR Concerned About Rwandan Repatriation Operation and Sudanese Refugees In Uganda - 2002-09-13

The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, says it’s concerned about what it calls “a contentious operation” by Rwanda to return refugees to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It says Rwandan government figures indicate seventy-five hundred refugees had returned to North Kivu by September 12th. The UN agency says despite government assurances, not all refugees have returned voluntarily, but some have returned “under duress.” It says living conditions for many of the refugees are “rapidly deteriorating.”

Also, the UNHCR is making plans to ensure the safety of thirty thousand Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda, who have been frequently attacked by rebels.

Twenty-four thousand of the refugees are from the Acholi-Pii camp, which was attacked last month by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Another six thousand were in the Maaji settlement, which was attacked September 9th.

UNHCR spokeswoman Millicent Mutuli, in Geneva, says the agency wants to move the Sudanese to a safer location but says it is up to the Ugandan government to pick a location. Ms. Mutuli spoke with English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua.