Kampala – Uganda has accepted at least 3 000 refugees fleeing armed militia terrorizing villages in the Congo’s Ituri province over the course of three days, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday.
The refugees entered Uganda between July 1 and 3 during a temporary opening of the border, the UNHCR’s Charlie Yaxley said in a statement.
Congolese authorities said they were part of a larger group of about 45 000 who had fled Ituri after brutal clashes in May.
While some had returned home, about 40 000 were still waiting near the border.
“We are closing the border again because we have to protect the country against Covid-19,” Ugandan Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hillary Onek told dpa.
Sixty-five per cent of the refugees are women and children, UNHCR Communication Officer Duniya Khan told dpa, adding they would be housed in a quarantine centre.
On Monday, the UN issued an investigative report which claimed that the armed group, Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), had been expanding its operations in Congo after military campaigns against it.
The radical Islamist ADF has been active in eastern Congo for more than three decades and are now active in other areas such as Ituri, further north, the UN reported.
Since October, the number and the intensity of the attacks have increased significantly, with assailants using heavy weapons and destroying whole villages and health centres, the report said.
Uganda is host to about 1.4-million displaced people, however, the East African country’s refugee response faces multiple challenges due to underfunding, the agency said.