News 2008


Kenyan Refugees Return Home

New Vision (Kampala)

3 March 2008

Daniel Edyegu


KENYAN refugees at Mulanda transit centre in Tororo district have begun going back home.

The deputy resident deputy district commissioner, Richard Gulume, said at least 367 of the displaced at Mulanda had returned home in the last few days.

He attributed the movement to the relative calm that has prevailed in Kenya in recent weeks. The opposition and government signed a power sharing deal on Thursday under the mediation of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

According to latest verification exercise conducted on February 28, 1,644 refugees are at Mulanda out of the 2,011 recorded earlier in the week, added Gulume.

"They have been coming to my office to seek permission to go and see their relatives back home.

"But whenever they leave, none comes back. It seems after reaching home and seeing the situation is fine, they stay back."

The Kenyans began fleeing to Uganda in December last year following a disputed election. The opposition Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga accused incumbent Mwai Kibaki of rigging votes.

The resultant chaos left more than 1,000 killed and over 600,000 people displaced, according to the UN humanitarian chief John Holmes. Most of those returning home, Gulume said, were living along the border areas of Busia-Kenya and Malaba in Teso district, Kenya.

"We are now encouraging more who want to go back to do so. Those who feel the situation is still not secure are free to stay in the transit centre."

However, an official of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at Mulanda expressed skepticism over the political stability in Kenya.

Kelvin Youlande said it was still too early to assume the conflict was over.

"We have been allowing them to return home because this centre is not a prison. Anybody who feels like going back does so at will, but we do not facilitate their movement.

"We discourage them until the situation is formally declared safe."