Did the former UNHCR Representative in Uganda Undermine
the Government’s Refugee Policy?
Briefing on the Plight of Achol Pii Refugees and
Refugee Policy in Uganda
In July 1996, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) attacked Achol Pii Refugee Settlement in Pader district, killing over 100 unarmed refugees and wounding several others. Subsequently the refugees made a passionate appeal to the government to relocate them to the southern parts of the country. In response, the Government of Uganda (GoU), through the Second Deputy Premier and Minister for Disaster Preparedness, Honourable Moses Ali, told refugees that they had no right to decide where to be housed and that if they were tired of the government's hospitality, they should go back to their country of origin. Unable to return to Sudan, the majority remained in Achol-Pii.
In May 2002, the Refugee Law Project (RLP) conducted field research in the settlement, following persistent reports from refugees about fears of another attack. Our investigations confirmed the threat of imminent attack, and were published in a report sent to the government, UNHCR, and other interested organisations in refugee welfare. There were clear signs of deteriorating security in the region and on 5th August 2002, the LRA attacked Achol Pii Refugee Settlement killing more than 20 refugees, injuring several others, and displacing 23,000. This time, both Government and UNHCR agreed that the refugees be moved to Kiryandongo refugee settlement in Masindi district, and 8,500 were quickly transferred to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Hoima district.
The refugees had hardly recovered from the traumatic events of the attack and subsequent displacement, when the GoU decided that the 14,500 refugees remaining in Kiryandongo should be transferred to Arua and Yumbe districts, areas where refugees were once attacked, killed and kidnapped by the now defunct West Nile Bank Front (WNBF) rebels. The choice of location raises some serious questions: Why, of all places in the country, are Madiokolo and Ikafe chosen for the relocation of the refugees? What are the criteria for districts to accept refugees in their areas? Did the GoU make any efforts to contact other districts about the possibility of transferring some refugees there?