As many as 10,000 Congolese refugees have crossed the border into Uganda in the last two days, fleeing violence in their villages, local government officials said Wednesday.
Some of the refugees said they fled after a demonstration by villagers protesting the failure of U.N. peacekeepers to improve security in their remote southeastern Congolese territory.
Refugees told of demonstrators hurling rocks at U.N. troops, and some said they feared that the situation would deteriorate, said David Masereka, the district commissioner of Kisoro, which sits along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
``The influx began yesterday (Tuesday) morning and continues up to now,’’ Masereka said.
He said the refugees had gathered on the site of a primary school in the small border town of Bunagana.
``It is mostly women and children that have arrived but they came in haste and were unable to bring food. These people are already hungry but we have no supplies to give them,’’ Masereka told The Associated Press.
Large-scale influxes of Congolese refugees into Uganda are not unusual. The mineral-rich eastern part of Congo, bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, remains the most unstable area of the country.
Fighting among rival militias, including groups from neighboring countries, regularly breaks out and often results in civilian casualties.
Uganda occupied part of the region during a 1998-2002 war in Congo that drew in military forces from six neighboring countries.
“We are taking these reports from local government seriously because of the large numbers of refugees involved and we have dispatched assessment teams to Kisoro,’’ said Roberta Russo, a Uganda-based spokeswoman for the U.N.’s refugee agency.
“But we suspect that as soon as the situation in Congo normalizes most will cross back to their homes.’’