Rebels Attack Uganda Refugee Camp; Thousands Flee; IRC Staff Missing
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said today that it had lost contact with 37 staff members working in a Ugandan refugee camp that was overrun and destroyed by rebel soldiers from the notorious Lord’s Resistance Army.
After the attack early today on Achol Pii Camp, its population of 24,000 refugees—all from southern Sudan— fled into the bush or headed south to the towns of Rackoko and Lira.
All of the missing IRC staff members are Ugandan citizens. Fleeing refugees reported that all of the IRC’s buildings, vehicles and equipment in the camp had been destroyed in the attack.
“This attack on innocent civilians and aid workers is an outrage,” said George Rupp, the IRC’s president. “The International Rescue Committee strongly urges the government of Uganda to act decisively to restore the security that has for so long eluded the people of northern Uganda and the refugees who have sought shelter there.”
Speaking in the capital, Kampala, Timothy Bishop, head of the IRC’s operations in Uganda, said, “We are deeply concerned about the safety of our colleagues and are doing everything possible to locate them. At the same time, we are working with the United Nations and other agencies to assist the refugees who were driven from Achol-Pii.”
An IRC logistics team has been dispatched to Lira, and two medical professionals will arrive on Tuesday to assist the newly displaced refugees, Bishop said.
Today’s raid was the Lord Resistance Army’s second on Achol-Pii Camp in a week. After the incursion on July 30, the IRC withdrew about half of its 60 staff members, mostly Ugandans, but 15 of them later returned. Staff members who were in the camp today were responsible for providing essential services, such as health care. The IRC has been providing comprehensive humanitarian services in the camp since January 2000.