What you need to know:
- There are mixed feelings among the refugees in regard to the decommissioning of the camp.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the government have started demolishing tents and reducing food rations for refugees at Nyakabande Refugee Transit Centre in Kisoro District as the October 31 decommission date draws near .
The camp has been housing refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since March following a resurgence in fighting between the M23 rebels and the Congolese government forces.
Speaking to Monitor yesterday, the Kisoro Resident District Commissioner, Mr Shafiq Ssekandi, said refugees at the camp will be relocated to other settlement camps in western Uganda and those who do not want to be sent to other camps will have to return to their country by October 31.
He added that of the 54,515 refugees at the camp, about 21,443 have opted to return to their home country while 3,752 are still at the holding centre undecided on where to go. A total of 667 others are expected to be relocated to settlement camps in western Uganda today.
“Although we still receive between 30 and 60 Congolese refugees at Nyakabande refugee transit camp per day, who claim to be running away from the tribal clashes in Southern Kivu province, they will be accommodated for a few days as we make arrangements with the UNHCR to relocate them to the settlement camps in western Uganda,” Mr Ssekandi said.
He asked humanitarian organisations to keep a skeleton crew in the area because the security situation in the eastern DRC is still fragile.
“We have been receiving security information that both the Congolese government forces and the M23 rebels are intensifying troop deployment and that means the security situation may change at any time,” Mr Ssekandi added.
There are mixed feelings among the refugees in regard to the decommissioning of the camp.
Some like Janclod Yamuremye, Baraka Kwitonda, and Jackson Niyinzima said they were being sent home to die.
“The Ugandan authorities decided to force us to return back to Congo well aware that the security situation is still fragile,” Mr Kwitoda said.
He added that they were paying private transporters Shs5,000 per head with their luggage to drop them at Bunagana and Busanza border posts in Kisoro District.
However, others like Sebishoma Damaseri, Lawrence Nyiramugisha, Francis Bariyanga said they were ready to be relocated to Nakivale Refugee Settlement Camp in Isingiro District for their safety.
In August, the government gave the refugees three months to leave the camp.
On Tuesday, officials from the UNHCR led by the head of its sub-office in western Uganda, Mr Paul Ali-Pauni Shelubale, led a team of journalists on a tour of the camp.
“The UNHCR shall provide means of transport to the needy Congolese refugees that require to return to their home country by October 31. The UNHCR is also ready to transport the Congolese refugees that voluntarily accept to be relocated to the settlement camps in Nyakivale in Isingiro District,” Mr Frank Walusimbi, the UNHCR associate communications officer in Uganda, said.
He added: “UNHCR and its partners have decided to decommission the Nyakabande refugee transit camp because it has become expensive for them to accommodate the refugees. We have been spending about $500,000 (Shs1.9 billion) per month to offer services to the refugees,” Mr Walusimbi said.
He said Nyakabande refugee camp in Kisoro District will remain open for refugees who will only stay for a short period of time before they are relocated to the established settlement camps where the government and the refugee agency provide services to them.