Fresh fighting has erupted between the Congolese government soldiers and the M23 rebels, displacing hundreds of Congolese nationals in the North Kivu province.
“Fresh fighting resumed Sunday afternoon in areas of Bunagana Town of DR Congo side just one kilometer from Uganda border but with heavy shelling from Congolese government soldiers towards the M23 bases of Chanzu and Runyonyi,” Kisoro Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Hajji Shafique Sekandi told this publication.
The tensions, Hajji Sekandi says have forced hundreds of Congolese asylum seekers into Uganda for safety. The refugees have now camped at Bunagana Town in Kisoro District.
“The UPDF soldiers have been deployed along the borderline to ensure no fighting crosses into the Ugandan territory,” Hajji Sekandi said on Monday.
Nyakabande, a refugee holding area and Transit center in Kisoro is now home to over 17, 953 Congolese refugees while the cumulative number of asylum seekers manually registered from March 28 when the first fighting broke out between Congolese forces and M23 rebels is 24,009 individuals of 12,405 Households.
“About 4,000 Congolese refugees have since been relocated to the refugee camps in Uganda after they voluntarily accepted the refugee status,” Hajji Sekandi noted.
Hajji Sekandi cautioned locals against hiding some refugees that have rejected relocation to camps.
“No single Congolese refugee is allowed to stay in the border communities and any Ugandan found hosting such shall be arrested and prosecuted. All refugees should voluntarily relocate to Nyakabande refugee camp without fail,” Hajji Sekandi said.
Mr John Bosco Bwambale, a clearing agent at Bunagana said that about 40 cargo trucks from Uganda to DR Congo were on Monday stuck at the border town as drivers waited for security to stabilize.
Local leaders in Bunagana have asked government to provide more facilities aimed at improving sanitation and hygiene in the area.
“Government must provide temporary shelter, mobile toilets, and safe drinking water for Congolese refugees before relocating to the transit camp,” Mr Ismail Ndayambaje, the LCIII chairman for Bunagana town council said.
Some of the Congolese refugees including Ms Bonitte Munyakazi, Ms Maria Mukeshimana, Mr Monica Nyirabarambuzi and Mr Donat Nkurikiyimana demanded that the Ugandan authorities allow them to stay in Bunagana.
“They should allow us to stay near the border instead of relocating us to the refugee camps. We are optimistic that the situation will stabilize,” Mr Musa Hafashimana, another Congolese refuge said.
However, an official from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) urged refugee- compliance.
“All the refugees currently camped at Bunagana are advised to relocate to Nyakabande refugee transit camp where they will be catered for in terms of food and accommodation,” said Mr Daniel Kisaamo, the OPM commandant at Nyakabande refugee transit camp.