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New UNHCR chief visits Sudanese refugees in Uganda

6/21/2005 12:41am

KAMPALA, Uganda, June 20, 2005 (AP) -- The new U.N. high commissioner for refugees took up the crisis in Sudan on his first field mission Monday, visiting some of the 200,000 Sudanese taking shelter in Uganda.
Antonio Guterres flew to Arua, 530 kilometers northwest of Kampala, to commemorate World Refugee Day with nearly 10,000 Sudanese refugees at Ikafe camp and later was to go to another refugee camp in Moyo district, which borders southern Sudan, said Roberta Russo of the U.N. refugee agency's Uganda office.

More than 20 years of civil war in southern Sudan killed more than 2 million people died, mainly from war-induced famine and disease, and forced at least twice as many to flee their homes.

A peace deal was signed in December between the main southern Sudanese rebel group and the Sudanese government.

But UNHCR reported last week that since the peace deal was signed, more than 8,000 Sudanese have crossed the border into Uganda.

The new refugees complained that ethnic tensions were on the rise, the Sudan People's Liberation Army was forcing young men to join their ranks, food aid had been cut off to some areas and a Ugandan rebel group was also attacking Sudanese civilians, UNHCR said.

The agency added it may be more difficult than expected to persuade Sudanese already in Uganda to return home.

The refugee agency had planned to repatriate Sudanese from Uganda beginning in August.

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