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UNHCR moves Congolese to transit camp following Uganda influx

News Stories, 22 May 2012

© UNHCR/R.Katabazi
Congolese civilians arriving in Bunagana, Uganda earlier this month after fleeing fighting across the border in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

GENEVA, May 22 (UNHCR) Fighting late last week between Congolese government forces and renegade troops has forced a new influx of displaced people into south-west Uganda. A further 13,000-15,000 people crossed the border from Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province in the latest influx, according to Ugandan district officials.

UNHCR staff, accompanied by government officials handling refugee issues, visited the border town of Bunagana on Friday and found some 6,000-7,000 Congolese camping in the area, using local shelter and open space. They were from nearby villages in North Kivu's Rutshuru territory. Many had already been displaced by earlier clashes in May.

The refugee agency started the same day to transport people from the border to a transit centre at Nyakabande. "We took about 1,000 people on Friday and Saturday, while others made their own way. As of Sunday night, there were 6,163 at Nyakabande, where capacity is increasingly stretched. We are providing basic aid," UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said on Tuesday.

To ease the congestion at Nyakabande, which lies 20 kilometres from the border at Bunagana, UNHCR is stepping up transportation of those who are willing to go to the Rwamwanja settlement, about 370 kilometres, or an eight hour's drive, to the north.

"On Monday morning, we moved 1,471 people by convoy to Rwamwanja and we plan more convoys on Thursday and Sunday, with each one taking 1,000-1,500 people," said Mahecic in Geneva. "But many people wish to stay near the border in the hope that the on-off fighting will end and they can return home," he added.

The recent fighting has also caused displacement inside North Kivu province, with at least 12,000 people registered as internally displaced in Jomba and Bwesa in Rutshuru territory between May 10 and May 15. Most of the displaced are staying with host families or living in school buildings.

In Rwanda, smaller numbers of Congolese continue to cross from North Kivu and make their way to the overstretched Nkamira transit camp, which currently hosts 9,006 people. A total of 107 people went back to Congo over the weekend, Mahecic said, adding: "We're keeping an eye on this trend."

Since April 27, when the current wave of clashes between Congolese armed forces and supporters of former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda broke out, tens of thousands of people have been displaced within North Kivu or to Uganda and Rwanda. Ntaganda joined the armed forces under a 2009 peace deal for the east, but he is sought for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. UNHCR fears further mass displacement unless the rival sides are able to agree on peace.

Amid all this, UNHCR suffered the loss of a colleague, Rocky Makabuza who was shot by assailants at his home in Goma late on Friday and died later. The motives for his killing have not been established.

By Leo Dobbs




A Time Between: Moving on from Internal Displacement in Uganda

This document examines the situation of IDPs in Acholiland in northern Uganda, through the stories of individuals who have lived through conflict and displacement.

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Displaced by Fresh Fighting in North Kivu

Waves of fighting in eastern Democratic of the Republic since late April have displaced tens of thousands of people. Many have become internally displaced within the province, while others have fled to south-west Uganda's Kisoro district or to Rwanda via the Goma-Gisenyi crossing.

The stop-start clashes between government forces and renegade soldiers loyal to former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda began in the province's Masisi and Walikale territories, but subsequently shifted to Rutshuru territory, which borders Uganda.

Between May 10-20, one of UNHCR's local NGO partners registered more than 40,000 internally displaced people (IDP) in Jomba and Bwesa sectors.

The IDPs are living in difficult conditions, staying in school buildings and churches or with host families. They lack food and shelter and have limited access to health facilities. Some of the displaced have reported cases of extortion, forced labour, beatings and recruitment of minors to fight.

UNHCR and other major aid organizations plan to distribute food, medicine and other aid. More than 300,000 people have been forcibly displaced in North and South Kivu since the start of the year, according to UN figures.

Displaced by Fresh Fighting in North Kivu

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Fighting rages on in various parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with seemingly no end in sight for hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee violence and instability over the past two years. The ebb and flow of conflict has left many people constantly on the move, while many families have been separated. At least 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu, the hardest hit province. After years of conflict, more than 1,000 people still die every day - mostly of hunger and treatable diseases. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the situation deteriorates and humanitarian agencies struggle to respond to the needs of the displaced.

When the displacement crisis worsened in North Kivu in 2007, the UN refugee agency sent emergency teams to the area and set up operations in several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Assistance efforts have also included registering displaced people and distributing non-food aid. UNHCR carries out protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs in North and South Kivu.

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

The internally displaced of Iraq

Eight years after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, over 1.5 million people remain displaced throughout Iraq, including 500,000 who live in dire conditions in settlements or public buildings. For these very vulnerable people, daily life is a struggle with limited access to clean water, electricity, heath services or schools for their children. Many families who live illegally in informal settlements are at risk of eviction. Most of the internally displaced fled their homes because of sectarian violence which erupted in 2006 following the bombing of the Al-Askari shrine in Samarra. UNHCR works with the Government of Iraq on projects such as land allocation; shelter assistance and house reconstruction to try to find long term solutions for the displaced.

The internally displaced of Iraq

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