Three South Sudanese teenage refugees have died after fighting broke out between rival South Sudanese ethnic groups at Palorinya refugee settlement in Moyo District.
The teenagers aged 16, 17 and 18 were killed following a fight that took place last week, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
UNHCR says it has now moved hundreds of refugees after the deadly violence coerced South Sudanese communities out of their homes in the settlement in West Nile.
Reports indicate that fighting broke out between different South Sudanese tribes on July 13, 2020, over the theft of crops in Dama village before it escalated.
During the clashes, six people were injured before being rushed to Luru and Palorinya health facilities for medical management.
Three of them remain hospitalised but in a stable condition while three others have been discharged.
More than 280 shelters were torched down.
Fearing retaliation, hundreds of families fled their homes seeking refuge at Luru, Itura and Orinya primary schools, Itura sub-county headquarters and Morobi police station.
On Sunday, UNHCR said in a statement that there have been no new clashes reported since Wednesday though the situation remains tense.
“The law enforcement is on ground to monitor the situation. Thirty people have been arrested and are currently in custody at Obongi district police station as part of investigations”.
The UNHCR in collaboration with the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) and Obongi district authorities have been engaging the refugee leaders and communities on peaceful co-existence and promoting dialogue.
UNHCR Representative to Uganda, Mr Joel Boutroue said that “We have been saddened by this tragic and senseless loss of life.”
The Palorinya reception centre has been designated as a temporary safe area.
UNHCR and partners launched an emergency operation to offer assistance to 762 refugees displaced by inter-community violence.
These include 595 South Sudanese UNHCR relocated last weekend from Luru primary school, Itula sub-county headquarters and Morobi police station, and 167 others who walked to the reception centre in the evening of July 14. About 80 per cent are children.
Mr Boutroue said that: “We have witnessed a spike in community violence since the start of COVID-19 crisis in Uganda.”
“The loss of livelihoods and increased idleness among the refugee youth that followed the enforcement of lockdown measures have contributed to intensify inter-community tensions, deepening tribal cleavages, that existed prior to the pandemic outbreak,” he added.
Mr Boutroue said that resources should be availed to enable humanitarian workers meet the basic necessities of the refugees on one hand and peace building on the other.
Reconciliation efforts and community sensitisation is underway at different levels to pave way for the return of the displaced populations back into their communities.
“It is critical that the refugee representatives exercise strong leadership and act as ambassadors of peace and inter-community dialogue,” Mr Boutroue said.
Uganda hosts 1.4 million refugees with South Sudanese nationals making up 65 per cent of the refugee population.