UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has begun the voluntary repatriation of
Ugandan refugees in Zambia, some of whom have lived in the southern
African country for over two decades.
The first group of 39
Ugandans, out of a total of 200 settled in the country, were
repatriated by commercial flight on 21 May under the terms of a
tripartite agreement between the governments of Zambia, Uganda and
UNHCR. The programme is expected to run until the end of the year and
"Our target is to repatriate all willing
Ugandans," UNHCR spokesman Kelvin Shimo told IRIN. "We are therefore
appealing to all Ugandan refugees wishing to repatriate to come forward
and register with us for return in 2008."
arrived in the country in 1985 as guests of the government,
accompanying ousted Ugandan president Milton Obote, who was driven from
power by then guerrilla leader Yoweri Museveni. Obote, Uganda's first
post-independence prime minister, remained in exile in Zambia until he
died of kidney failure in 2005 aged 80.
At the height of the
conflicts in the Great Lakes region and neighbouring Angola in the
1990s, Zambia hosted around 300,000 refugees. That figure has fallen to
about 113,000 since a political agreement ended 27 years of war in
Angola, and there has been intermittent peace in the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC), but the largest caseloads are still refugees
from the DRC (55,434) and Angola (40,757).
situation is still serious in Zambia; we still have big numbers in
settlement camps and even outside the camps in urban areas. So, what we
are doing at the moment is to focus on repatriation of those who
volunteer to go back to their countries, and also help in the
maintenance of those that are remaining in the country," Shimo said.
voluntary repatriation of Angolans started in 2003, followed by
Rwandans in 2004, and Congolese in 2007; now, Ugandans are going home.
total of 74,000 Angolans have been formally repatriated, while an
estimated 130,000 living outside the camps returned under their own
steam. UNHCR plans to repatriate 19,336 Congolese refugees in 2008, in
addition to the 7,323 that went home last year.