Fresh fighting in DR Congo displaces hundreds

Congolese refugees in Kisoro District on May 23, 2022. PHOTO | ROBERT MUHEREZA | DAILY MONITOR

What you need to know:

  •  The violence continues despite deployment of thousands of peacekeepers from the UN and member states of the East African Community.
  • Local leaders in Bunagana have asked the government to provide more facilities for sanitation and hygiene.
  • Some of the Congolese refugees demanded that the Ugandan authorities allow them to stay in Bunagana.  

Fresh fighting has erupted between the Congolese government soldiers and the M23 rebels, displacing hundreds of Congolese nationals in North Kivu Province.

Ugandan authorities near the border confirmed the violence that continues despite deployment of thousands of peacekeepers from the UN and member states of the East African Community.

“The fighting resumed Sunday afternoon in areas of Bunagana town of DR Congo side just one kilometer from Uganda border but with heavy shelling from Congolese government soldiers towards the M23 bases of Chanzu and Runyonyi,” Kisoro Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Hajji Shafique Sekandi said. 

The tensions, Sekandi says, have forced hundreds of Congolese asylum seekers into Uganda for safety. The refugees have now camped at Bunagana Town in Kisoro District.

“The UPDF soldiers have been deployed along the borderline to ensure no fighting crosses into the Ugandan territory,” Sekandi added in an interview Monday. 

Displaced families continued to cross the border on Tuesday, with no end in sight.

Nyakabande, a refugee holding area and a transit centre in Kisoro, is now home to over 17, 953 Congolese refugees while the cumulative number of asylum seekers manually registered from March 28 when the first fighting broke out is 24,009 individuals from 12,405 households.

“About 4,000 Congolese refugees have since been relocated to the refugee camps in Uganda after they voluntarily accepted the refugee status,”  the official noted. 

Congolese refugees cross into Uganda at the Bunagana Border post on May 23, 2022. PHOTO/ROBERT MUHEREZA

He cautioned locals against hiding some refugees that have rejected relocation to camps.   

“No single Congolese refugee is allowed to stay in the border communities and any Ugandans found hosting such shall be arrested and prosecuted. All refugees should voluntarily relocate to Nyakabande refugee camp without fail,” he said.

Mr John Bosco Bwambale, a clearing agent at Bunagana, said about 40 cargo trucks from Uganda to DR Congo were on Monday stuck at the border town as drivers waited for security to be restored.

 Local leaders in Bunagana have asked the government to provide more facilities for sanitation and hygiene.

“Government must provide temporary shelter, mobile toilets, and safe drinking water for Congolese refugees before relocating them to the transit camp,” Mr Ismail Ndayambaje, the LCIII chairman for Bunagana town council, said.

Some of the Congolese refugees, including Ms Bonitte Munyakazi, Ms Maria Mukeshimana, Mr Monica Nyirabarambuzi and Mr Donat Nkurikiyimana, demanded that the Ugandan authorities allow them to stay in Bunagana.  

“They should allow us to stay near the border instead of relocating us to the refugee camps. We are optimistic that the situation will stabilsze,” Mr Musa Hafashimana, another Congolese refuge, said.

However, an official from the Office of the Prime Minister urged the foreigners to comply with the government directive.

“All the refugees currently camped at Bunagana are advised to relocate to Nyakabande refugee transit camp where they will be catered for in terms of food and accommodation,” said Mr Daniel Kisaamo, the OPM commandant at Nyakabande refugee transit camp.

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