DR Congo fighting pushes more refugees into Uganda

Some of the Congolese refugees at Bunagana border town in Kisoro District yesterday afternoon following renewed fighting between M23 rebels and the Democratic Republic of Congo government soldiers. PHOTO/ROBERT MUHEREZA

What you need to know:

  • Local leaders appeal to the government to construct emergency facilities to provide services for refugees.

Business came to a standstill yesterday at Bunagana border town in Kisoro District after Congolese refugees fled to Uganda following renewed fighting between M23 rebels and the Congolese government soldiers.

Leaders estimate that about 4,000 refugees have entered the country through the border post.
The refugees camped on shop verandas and road reserves while others scattered around Bunagana Market. 

They said they could not stand fresh fighting that broke out in Rutshuru, North Kivu Province, DR Congo, at around 4am and carried on up to 4pm.

“We had to flee for safety. I have suffered enough and there is no need for me to relocate to refugee camps in Uganda. I want to stay here at the border and when the situation stabilises, I will return home,” Ms Fransen Umutonyi, a mother of three, said.

“Staying here at Bunagana border gives me a chance to cross back and get food and water for my children. It is the reason I have not carried my luggage,” he added. 

Since March 28 when fighting between the M23 and the Congolese government soldiers started, at least 29,025 Congolese refugees have been registered at Nyakabande Refugee Ttransit Camp in Kisoro.

Some of the Congolese refugees arrive at Bunagana border town in Kisoro District June 12, 2022. PHOTO/ROBERT MUHEREZA

Of the 29,025 refugees, about 7,000 have been relocated to the different settlement camps after they voluntarily accepted refugee status.

The UPDF second division spokesperson, Capt Geoffrey Sunday, said the Ugandan army is monitoring the border to ensure  its territory is safe.

“The UPDF soldiers in Kisoro have always been on standby ever since fresh fighting started in the DR Congo and this is to ensure that our territory is safe,” Capt Sunday said.

Speaking to the Monitor in an interview yesterday, the Kisoro Resident District Commissioner, Mr Shafiq Sekandi, said the refugees will be relocated to Nyakabande Refugee Transit Camp for registration. He reported that two Congolese soldiers that were wounded during the early morning fight were taken to Mutorele Hospital in Kisoro.

“We shall also continue to advocate for the elevation of Bunagana Health Centre II to a health III status so that it can be in position to provide healthcare to hundreds of Congolese refugees in case of continued fighting,” Mr Sekandi said.

Local leaders at Bunagana border post, however, appealed to the government to consider constructing emergency facilities to provide psycho-social services for refugees.

“The government should also consider putting up mobile toilets and water tap stands in Bunagana border post,”  the chairman of Bunagana Town Council, Mr Ismail Ndayambaje, said.

He said the government should work with different humanitarian organisations to construct gravity flow schemes that can provide free water to locals and refugees. 

“We have started registering cases of Congolese refugees being accused of property thefts and crop raids in Bunagana Town Council.  The office of the Prime Minister should consider giving relief food to Ugandans staying in Bunagana and other border sub-counties because most of their crop gardens have been raided,” the chairman of Bunagana Trading Centre, Mr Bubakare Nikwegye, said.

Mr Nikwegye also asked the government to put up an animal screening centre at Bunagana border post.

About M23

The M23, known as the March 23 Movement,  is one of more than 120 armed groups that operates in eastern DR Congo.  It resumed fighting this year, accusing the Congolese government of failing to respect a 2009 agreement under which its fighters were to be incorporated into the army.