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Uganda relocates Sudanese refugees


KAMPALA, Sept 2, 2003 (Xinhua) — The Office of the Ugandan Prime Minister on Monday started relocating 1,500 Sudanese refugees who have been camping in western Uganda to the northwest, reported The New Vision on Tuesday.

The refugees at Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Masindi district, western Uganda, will be settled in Ikafe camp in Yumbe district and Madi Okollo camp in Arua, both in northwestern part of the country.

Emmanuel Bagenda, refugee law project advocacy officer, was quoted as saying that the refugees were forcefully rounded up and made to board 13 trucks to West Nile, northwestern Uganda.

Bagenda said about 100 Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) soldiers are said to have surrounded the camp at 4:00 a.m. (0100 GMT), adding that some shots were fired and an unknown number of refugees were injured.

However, Carlos Twesigomwe, commissioner in charge of refugees, said Monday that "we don’t force refugees to relocate. Those who refuse to relocate lost their status. As refugees, they have to abide by the laws of the host country, otherwise we shall treat them as aliens."

"The police could have been deployed to ensure peaceful transfer of refugees," Twesigomwe said. Meanwhile, a woman was injured in a riot at Kiryandongo refugee camp on Monday, according to local daily The Monitor on Tuesday.

Police spokesman Assuman Mugenyi was quoted by The Monitor as saying that the woman was hit by a rubber bullet as anti-riot police quelled the riot.

He said the riot occurred at the start of the relocation.

About 16,000 refugees were taken to Masindi district in August last year after rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army attacked their camp at Acholi Pii camp in northern district of Kitgum.

The Ugandan government says the relocation is aimed at decongesting Kiryandongo, which already hosts 13,000 other Sudanese refugees and some others of different nationalities.

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