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Renewed fighting drives more Congolese refugees across the border

KAMPALA, 10 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - Renewed fighting among various groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in areas close to the border with Uganda, has triggered new arrivals of refugees in western Uganda, an official of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Thursday.

"There has been an upsurge in arrivals in the past four days. We have recorded at least 200 every day who, reportedly, are fleeing fighting in DRC, close to Kyoma and Kasenyi villages," Roberta Russo, the UNHCR spokeswoman in Kampala, said.

However, she added, "We do not know who is fighting who".

She said the Congolese refugees, who were previously reluctant to leave the transit site of Nkondo on the southern tip of Lake Albert, on the border with the DRC, had started moving to the Kaseeta reception centre.

"Some of them are women and children joining their male relatives who left earlier to ascertain conditions in Kyaka II [refugee camp]," Russo said. "Others have run out of money to buy food or rent living quarters and the total number of those who have arrived since 2 February is 890 persons."

The influx of 15,000 Congolese refugees into western Uganda, precipitated by fighting in January in the DRC's eastern province of North Kivu, had reduced, with close to 10,000 of them reported to have returned to their country. The fighting in North Kivu was between former rebels-turned-government soldiers and former Mayi-Mayi militias, who have also been integrated into the Congolese national army.

Russo said some 85 unaccompanied minors at Kyaka II had been identified and interviewed, in cooperation with Save the Children NGO.

She said Oxfam was handling the provision of water by constructing two shallow wells in the camp. The latest arrivals are being provided with water from reservoirs containing 35,000 litres and taps have been set up to solve the water crisis there.

UNHCR, she said, had begun a sensitisation campaign through community services where refugees were encouraged to build individual family pit latrines to improve sanitation in the camp.

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