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10 refugees missing in Uganda after deadly clash with locals

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-09-16 21:46

Joel Boutroue, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Uganda, said on Sept 16 almost 10 refugees are still missing after a Sept 11 clash with the locals that left 10 other refugees dead in the northwestern part of the country.

Speaking in Kampala, Uganda's capital, Boutroue called upon authorities to search for the missing people immediately.

"The disproportionate violent reaction by the host community to a communal dispute signals a threat to the delicate balance of peaceful coexistence in the rural villages where refugees live alongside their Ugandan hosts," Boutroue said. "We urge calm and are working with the authorities to ensure additional security measures are adopted and this deadly incident is investigated to help clarify the circumstances, including the role of local authorities."

According to the UNHCR, 10 South Sudanese refugees were killed, 19 others were injured and one member of the host community was killed in Madi Okollo district on Sept 11. In addition, 15 refugee houses were destroyed and another 26 were looted and vandalized.

The clash erupted after a dispute between locals and refugees near a shared water point at the Tika village in the Rhino Camp settlement, where South Sudan refugees reside.

While reacting to the attacks on Sep 12, Josephine Angucia, the police spokesperson in Uganda's West Nile region, confirmed the incident, saying bodies of the deceased had been taken to Arua Mortuary for postmortem and a hunt for the suspects is on.

"We have arrested 13 suspects for murdering people in a refugee camp, the scene has been preserved for further analysis and we have made combined deployment of police supported by the military," Angucia said.

Although Uganda has been praised for keeping its door open to refugees, the UNHCR warned of the strain on local resources and the conflicts that might ensue as refugees and locals seek out these resources. The East African nation now hosts more than 1.4 million refugees, most from South Sudan.

"In an environment of scarcity of resources, tragic incidents such as that of last Friday are alarming because refugees as well as host communities face increased hardships and decreased access to basic services and livelihoods," Boutroue said.

UNHCR said it had immediately deployed teams on the ground to support refugees who were deeply traumatized by the attack, and is working with government counterparts and partners to respond to the needs of those affected.

Rhino Camp, where the incident took place, hosts more than 100,000 refugees and is one of the largest refugee settlements in Uganda. The camp was opened in 1980 and expanded in the wake of the South Sudanese civil war to host the sudden influx of refugees into Northern Uganda.

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