Congolese refugees to choose between camp or return home

Congolese refugees wash their hands upon arrival at Nyakabande refugee transit camp in Kisoro District on April 4, 2022. PHOTO/ROBERT MUHEREZA

What you need to know:

  • Camp authorities say they have enough resources to take care of all the refugees.

Uganda has registered a fresh influx of about 6,000 Congolese refugees following insecurity in DR Congo.

The refugees, who returned through Bunagana border town in Kisoro District at the weekend, have been relocated to Nyakabande refugee transit camp, where they are being screened before  accessing social services.

Although security agencies last week assured the refugees that it was safe to return home, some refugees still consider their villages in North Kivu province of the DR Congo unsafe.

Some of the more than 30,000 Congolese that had camped at Bunagana border town for about a week returned home last Friday after the Congolese security officials assured them of stability.

However, majority came back to Uganda on Sunday, saying M23 rebels were planning to attack their homes.

The Kisoro chairman, Mr Abel Bizimana, said the refugees were forced out of Bunagana border town on Sunday evening before being transported to Nyakabande refugee camp.

“We could not allow them to settle at Bunagana border by camping on verandas, schools, health centres and  market areas as was the situation last week. We appeal to the government for special funding to buy school furniture because the refugees used the available one as firewood,” Mr Bizimana said.

He also asked the Congolese refugees to adhere to the rules and regulations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and those of the host communities.

The Nyakabande transit camp settlement commandant, Mr Daniel Kisaamo, said they have enough facilities to take care of all the refugees.

“Upon arrival at the camp, the Congolese refugees are screened for Covid-19 and Ebola. They also go through security screening to ensure that they don’t carry dangerous weapons,” Mr Kisaamo said. 

“They are registered and given identification that allows them to access social services, which include shelter, health and food. There is also polio and measles immunisation for Congolese children at the transit camp,” he added.

Mr Kisaamo said for now,  they have no plans of relocating them to the gazetted refugee camps.

“We have so far registered 6,163 Congolese refugees. We have accommodated them here so that they can make an informed decision about their destiny. We have enough food and we provide them with breakfast, lunch and supper of beans, rice, and posho (maize flour) and plans are underway to add vegetables to the menu,” Mr Kisaamo said.

Mr Christopher Shyaka and Mr Izabaye Ngoma, both Congolese traders, said they are not willing to be relocated to any other camp.

“We were told by the Congolese security officials to run back into Uganda because the M23 rebels were planning to attack our homes. We had to cross back into Uganda for our safety. Now that we have heard that the M23 rebels have opted for ceasefire, we should go back to our country. Life in refugee camps is hard,” Mr Shyaka said.