Rebels in Uganda cause refugees to flee

Rebel attacks in northern Uganda have forced more than 20 000 refugees to flee their camps in recent weeks, the United Nations refugee agency said Sunday.

The rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army have been raiding four camps in Adjumani district to loot food, medicine and other goods since the beginning of April, forcing between 20 000 and 25 000 refugees to move on foot to safer areas, said Dennis Duncan, spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for refugees.

The camps in Adjumani, about 600km north of Kampala, are protected by local defence force units and a small number of soldiers, Duncan said. But unlike other parts of northern Uganda, there is not a heavy military presence in the area because it has not been prone to rebel attacks in the past.

No casualties had been reported in the attacks, Duncan said.

The rebels’ 17-year insurgency has forced more than one million people in northern and northeastern Uganda from their homes, and the insurgents often attack camps to loot and abduct people.

In February, the insurgents killed more than 200 people during an attack on a camp in Lira district.

President Yoweri Museveni blamed the army for allowing that attack to happen, saying that camp was not properly protected. It was not immediately possible to speak to Ugandan officials on Sunday.

The camps in Adjumani were home to Sudanese refugees who fled into Uganda to escape civil war in neighbouring Sudan.

“It is not chaotic yet.
The refugees are moving in an organised way, it is not a scramble, but we are in an emergency mood because some camps are being abandoned for others. We expect overcrowding in some camps,” Duncan said.

The Lord’s Resistance Army rose from the remnants of a revolt by soldiers from the Acholi tribe. Museveni, a southerner, seized power in 1986. The Acholi tribe is dominant in northern Uganda.

The shadowy group replenishes its ranks with children it kidnaps to serve as fighters, porters or sex slaves.—Sapa-AP

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