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Kenyan refugees back from Uganda

There were tears of joy at the Uganda-Kenya border on Tuesday as Kenyans who fled to Uganda seven years ago reunited with their relatives.

About 6,500 Kenyans fled the 2007-2008 post-election violence following disputed presidential election results and settled at Kiryandogo refugee settlement in Masindi District, Uganda.

Shortly after the violence ended, they started returning home in groups, leaving about 1,350.

One of the returnees, Ms Ruth Bilongo, said she was grateful to President Uhuru Kenyatta for restoring stability in Kenya.

“I am delighted to return home after more than seven years,” she said.

She, however, expressed fears that life might be difficult. “Although we are now home, it is difficult to lead the life of a person who has never run away. We have sick, elderly and disabled people who will need special help from the government,” she said.

The refugees travelled in 12 buses to the border. The lucky ones who could still remember their relatives shouted in disbelief while others hugged each another on arrival.

LOST PROPERTY

“We are happy to be home but we request the government to provide us with a small start-up capital as we lost our property,” said one of the returnees.

The former refugees will stay at an Internally Displaced Persons camp in Malaba near the border with Uganda until they return to their homes.

They were each given $50 (about Sh5,000) by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help them settle.

Handing them over to Kenyan officials, Ugandan Relief Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Minister Hilary Onek said the two governments must ensure violence-free countries.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that nobody runs away from home because of disagreements,” he said.

He also said Uganda was preparing to repatriate refugees of other nationalities to their countries.

Receiving the returnees, Mr James Serian, the Region Coordinator, western Kenya, assured them of safety.

“Kenya is now safe and this is the last group to be resettled. I want to thank our Ugandan counterparts for the brotherly cooperation. You helped our people when we had trouble and this should continue,” he said.