Fresh refugee influx from DR Congo as fighting breaks out

One of the medical centres in Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement in Yumbe on June 5, 2017. PHOTO/FILE 

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Leaders say majority of the refugees are mixing with locals and refusing to register and be screened.

There is a fresh influx of refugees into Uganda through ungazetted entry points following renewed fights in the DR Congo, Daily Monitor has established.

The refugees, who have taken advantage of the porous border points to sneak into the country, are now mixing with the locals.

Mr  Kule Neriko, the chairperson  of Katero Cell in Mpondwe Lhubiriha Town Council, last week said the refugees are from Witsa Village,  Beni District in DR Congo. 

 “We have heard reports of several refugees but we have so far received a family of seven who reported to our office. Majority are still hiding from us. Some have clearly explained how they had escaped from their country due to killings and tension caused by renewed fighting, ” Mr Kule said.

 Last week, fighting broke out after locals accused the UN Mission in DR Congo of failing to stop rebel activities in the area.

The locals, particularly the Nandi community, got angry and asked the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO) forces to vacate the area, leading to the protests.

In the process, a young man from another community was killed, sparking off revenge attacks on the Nandi community. Mr Samuel Lebisabo, a survivor who escaped with a family of six, said after repeated rebel attacks, the locals were tired and asked the forces to leave.

 “When the conflict erupted, we escaped in big numbers of about 50 families. However, their whereabouts is not clear. My wife, mother in-law and I ran through Bikomadi, Bunya route and entered Kasenyi. We came out through the road channel in Katero Village, Mpondwe Lhubiriha Town Council. We have since received reports that most of our parents who were far from us, have been killed by the rebels,” Mr Lebisabo said. 

Another unidentified refugee said the situation across the border had worsened.

“We ran for three days until we reached the border. I left behind my family. I don’t know whether my husband and our first born are still alive,” she said.

Mr Sylvester Mapozi, the Mpondwe Town Council chairperson, said many refugees who use the porous border points opt to hide instead of declaring themselves to the authority for screening and official registration.

He added that this is because they fear being charged with trespass as majority do not have permits to allow them into the country.

The Kasese Resident District Commissioner, Lt Joe Walusimbi, said the refuges are free to seek asylum in Uganda as long as they follow the right procedures.

Govt speaks out

 The government yesterday acknowledged there is trouble in DR Congo and   is likely to cause refugee influx into the country.

Mr Musa Ecweru, the State minister for Refugees, said: “There seems to be trouble in DR Congo. Many people are using illegal entry points and this might fail our efforts to combat Covid-19.”

Minister Ecweru asked the Office of the Prime minister and other government agencies to intervene so that the refugees use designated entry points and be properly screened.

Uganda closed its borders to foreigners at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown.