Despite a January peace agreement between the Government of Sudan and rebels in the southern part of the country, the United Nation's top refugee official said that attacks by a Ugandan rebel group continued to drive refugees into camps in northern Uganda and prevent long-time refugees there from returning home.
"This was supposed to be a transit centre for refugees returning to South Sudan, not a reception centre for new arrivals," said António Guterres the newly-confirmed head of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). "Now we are working closely with Ugandan authorities to find land for you while you are here."
As part of a three-day visit to Uganda, High Commissioner Guterres visited Palorinya, a refugee settlement on the Nile, to meet new arrivals from South Sudan who have fled recent incursions by Ugandan rebels known as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).
Almost 9,000 people, mainly women and children, have arrived in the area since January, when the peace agreement was signed, according to UNHCR. The recent arrivals said they stayed in their country for the entire 21 years of the civil war and only fled in recent months for fear of the LRA's practice of recruiting children for soldiers, porters and sex slaves.
"That peace agreement is for others and not for all of us," said one refugee, whose wife was killed and five of his six children missing. "When will it help us?"
To make the peace a reality for all, Mr. Guterres called for the deployment of a peacekeeping force, preferably provided by the African Union. Having praised Uganda's generosity for receiving hundreds of thousands of refugees over the years, he also urged "an extra dose of solidarity" from local Ugandan authorities in caring for the latest arrivals.
Mr. Guterres is also expected to visit some of the 1.5 million Ugandans who have been displaced within their own country because of LRA attacks, before returning to the capital, Kampala, to meet senior government officials. He will conclude his first mission with UNHCR on Wednesday.