UNHCR calls for Investigation of West Nile Refugee Killings

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is calling for an investigation into last weekend’s violence between refugees at Rhino refugee settlement and the local community in Madi-Okollo district that left at least 10 people dead and 19 injured.

The violence broke out in the evening hours of September 11 following a dispute between locals and refugees near a shared water point. It all started after refugee youths assaulted Rahman Yassin Ajute, a member of the host community, who was grazing cattle near the resettlement camp. The disagreement resulted in a violent attack against refugees at the Tika village in Rhino refugee settlement, where South Sudanese refugees reside.

In a statement, the UNHCR expressed deep concern about the safety of the refugees who are missing and urged the Ugandan authorities to search for them immediately.  

“The disproportionate violent reaction by the host community to a communal dispute signals a threat to the delicate balance of peaceful coexistence in the rural villages where refugees live alongside their Ugandan hosts,” said Joel Boutroue, the UNHCR representative in Uganda.  

“In an environment of scarcity of resources, tragic incidents such as that of last Friday are alarming, as both the host and refugee communities face increased hardships and decreased access to basic services and livelihoods,” he added.  

Boutroue called for calm as the agency continues to work with the authorities to ensure that additional security measures are adopted, and to have the incident investigated to help clarify the circumstances, including the role of local authorities. 

“UNHCR has immediately deployed teams on the ground to support refugees who are deeply traumatized by the attack and work with government counterparts and partners to respond to the needs of those affected while also initiating reconciliatory efforts,” Boutroue said. 

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