UN agency relocates Kenyan refugees in Uganda

24 January 2008 –

As security conditions deteriorate in Kenya, the United Nations refugee agency is in the process of relocating an estimated 6,500 refugees who fled across the border to Uganda to a transit centre farther inland.

Hundreds of refugees have already been transported by bus from the border towns of Busia and Malaba to a centre at Mulanda, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said, as part of a five-day relocation operation.

Many of the Kenyan refugees "carried plastic bags containing the meagre possessions they were able to salvage before being chased from their homes in post-election violence across the border in Kenya," the agency said.

By Wednesday, some 200 tents provided by UNHCR had been erected at the transit centre in readiness for the refugees, with another 300 being prepared. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) installed water tanks at the site.

Registered refugees will receive ration cards which entitle them to food, basic household commodities and other services at the transit centre.

Many of the refugees had been living at schools, with women and children quartered in classrooms and men sleeping in tents.

But others who are staying with relatives and friends "may not move to Mulanda because they prefer to stay close to the border where they can closely follow developments taking place on the other side," said a UNHCR official who travelled. She added that they were anxious to return home, put their children back in school and rebuild their lives.

In contrast, many of those moving to Mulanda on Wednesday were expecting to be there for some time. "I have nowhere else to go. We plan to stay here for some months as we decide what to do next," said Rahab Wanjiru, a dealer in electronic goods in Busia, which straddles the border.

Her shop was set ablaze by drunken youths as they hunted down people from Wanjiru's ethnic group after the results of the 30 December presidential poll were announced, sparking violence that has left hundreds dead.

Security conditions in Kenya are deteriorating, according to UN officials who reported on Wednesday that more than a dozen civilians have been killed in political violence, and 70 houses burned, just in the prior 24 hours.

Uganda currently hosts more than 216,000 refugees, mostly from neighbouring Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, as well as 850,000 internally displaced persons according to UNHCR.

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