Communities in Bundibugyo district have declined to accommodate Congolese refugees fleeing from a Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) assault on Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels in Congo.
On Friday night, more than 800 Congolese refugees entered Uganda through Busunga border post following a raid by the UPDF on the ADF base of in Eastern DRC.
The attack was in retaliation to the killing of 15 United Nations peace keepers. On Monday, 500 more refugees entered Kasiri, Bundibugoma and Butungo villages in Nyahuka sub-county hoping to get shelter and support from the community.
However, residents turned away the refugees and told them to return to their homes. Edward Baluku, the LCIII chairperson Bubandi town council says that some of the refugees are still stranded because they have nowhere to go.
Baluku explains that refugees have been told to return to their homes after the UPDF stopped its operations in Eastern DRC. He adds that they were planning to transfer some of the refugees to Bubandi sub-county, but they halted the plans due to lack of funds and poor sanitation at the headquarters.
“We have a problem of sanitation, even food; they are still suffering. They have no tents and we want the government to support us. We’re requesting the Red Cross and UN to come and intervene in this problem. It is a big number and we divided them into two groups,” he said.
Moses Mbambu, a resident of Nyahuka town council says that on Christmas day, he turned away three Congolese families that had sought refuge at his home. He says that since he is unemployed, he can’t afford looking after the refugees, saying they will be an extra burden to his family.
Sam Mbahimba, a refugee from Kamango village, says that he will return to his home once he’s guaranteed security by the UPDF and Congolese army. He explains that for the past four days, he has struggled to feed his family of five children.
“We don’t want to be taken there [Bubandi sub-county] because we have many projects and our families there in our country Congo. We have buildings, we have some sambas of cocoa, cassava. So such projects, we can’t leave and go far away from there. We have to keep here as the government of Uganda and that of Congo work together to solve the war. We’re ready to go home,” Mbahimba said.
Ronald Mutegeki, the Bundibugyo district LCV chairperson says that the refugees have been told to either return to their homes or go to the transit center at Bubukwanga, which has adequate sanitary facilities and can access food from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Mutegeki also says that the district is yet to receive relief assistance from the Office of the Prime Minister.