Tension as More Congolese Refugees Flow into Uganda

Written by on November 9, 2021

The influx of Congolese nationals seeking refuge in Uganda following heavy fighting between government forces and a yet to be identified rebel force in Rutshuru, North Kivu province has put business at Bunagana border and some parts of Kisoro town at standstill.

Fighting erupted DR Congo between a yet to be named rebel group and the government army on Sunday night at around 11:00 PM in the villages of Chanzu and Runyoni in Rutshuru territory, about 25 kilometers from the Uganda border of Bunagana in Kisoro district. The fighting extended up to Monday.

                                         Some of the congolese refugees at Bunagana border

As a result, thousands of Congolese nationals in the affected and neighboring villages of Kabindi, Rwanguba,Takimonyo, Kyengerero, Karambo,Bunagana, Kinyangurube, Ndiza, Mbuzi, and Jomba among other villages fled to Uganda through Bunagana and other porous border areas while others fled to the Catholic parish of Jomba.

The rebel group also managed to take over the government’s four army barracks namely Chanzu, Giziza, Runyoni and Mbuzi.

On arriving at  Bunagana border in Kisoro district, the refugees were camped at Bunagana border market and in nearby Kibaya land as district security authorities forge means of handling the situation.  Among the first steps security authorities resolved was to order the closure of all businesses at the border and Gasiza market in Kisoro town.

All other street vendors along the main street were ordered to pack and go home.   Dan Ndikumwami, Kisoro Deputy Resident District Commissioner says that closure of businesses at Bunagana border and some in Kisoro town is temporary and aimed at preventing Ugandans from contacting the Congolese.

Abel Bizimana, Kisoro District LC5 chairman says that Security held a meeting and realized that the Congolese nationals should be handled with extra care to make sure that they don’t at all mix with Ugandans since some of them could even be having guns which can later create insecurity in the district.

Elly Maate, police spokesperson for Kigezi region says that by 07:00 PM on Monday evening, more Congolese nationals were still crossing. He also admits that though everything is under control, the security situation at the border is very tense.

Meanwhile, Kisoro district disaster management committee is struggling to accommodate the Congolese nationals seeking refuge. The committee led by Mannaseh Rukundo, Kisoro Deputy Chief Administrative Officer on Monday afternoon held a crisis meeting to forge means of accommodating thousands of the Congolese nationals currently at Bunagana border and Nyakabande refugees transit site.

The committee noted that there are no public toilets at Bunagana border for the refugees to use while answering nature’s call; no shelter for accommodating them in case it rains; no water services; no medicine and medical staff to provide first aid; no emergency vehicles to transport them to Nyakabande transit site; no protective gear for the staff on the ground; low-security personnel to maintain security; no fuel to help in evacuating pregnant mothers and children among others.

Due to the high numbers, the refugees are unable to observe Covid-19 and Ebola preventive measures like social distancing.

Ismail Ndayambaje, Mayor for Bunagana town council admits that the health situation in terms of not having enough toilets is appalling. He expresses worry that in case something is not done immediately, the area risks being hit by poor hygiene diseases like chorea.

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