Forced repatriation of displaced persons in Uganda to their original homes in the north is "inhuman and against the government policy of voluntary return", local officials have said.
Hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled clashes between the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and government forces in the 1990s, and sought refuge in the central district of Masindi, were recently rounded up by local authorities and sent back on trucks to northern districts.
"We hear that these IDPs are being rounded [up] and loaded into trucks and brought back to their districts in northern Uganda; this is against the principle of the voluntary return of formerly displaced persons to their homes," Kitgum District [northern Uganda] chairman John Ogwok Komakech said.
Sources in Masindi said 2,492 IDPs living in Kihura A village, 1,300 in Kihura B, 1,511 in Kasubi and 1,843 in Nyamiringa were to be repatriated.
The Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Coordinator for the Office of the Prime Minister in Amuru, northern Uganda, Lilly Adong, said the government had intervened.
"The whole exercise was stopped because it was done in total violation of IDP rights… IDPs being repatriated have expressed concern over their security and dignity," she told IRIN. "These people were loaded into a truck and dumped in Amuru at a police station without our notice."
Joseph Otto, who fled Mucwini village in Kitgum District in 1996, said he would remain in Kitgum town because he could not go back to the village with nothing to start a life.
Other IDPs said they were born in Masindi and did not know where to go, while some had vegetable gardens or children at school in Masindi.
"I was forced onto the truck by one of the law enforcement officers in Nyamiringa village where I was living," Harriet Achayo, who fled Guru-Guru village in Amuru District in 1997, told IRIN at Ociti return site in Amuru. "They said they were taking us back because the land we are occupying will be planted with sugar cane."
Achayo and 122 other IDPs were dumped at Amuru police station, local officials said. Another 93 were taken to Pader District.
Relative peace returned to northern Uganda after the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement between the LRA and the government in 2006. Since then, most IDPs have returned to their original villages.
Observers, however, say services at places of return are failing to meet the demands of returning populations. These include schools which lack housing for teachers, classrooms, latrines and water points.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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