Uganda: Surge in Congolese influx as fighting worsens in eastern DRC

Briefing Notes, 22 May 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 22 May 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Fighting late last week between Congolese government forces and renegade troops has forced a new influx of displaced people into southwest Uganda. According to Ugandan district officials a further 13,000-15,000 people have crossed the border over the past few days.

Our staff, accompanied by government officials handling refugees, 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 come from villages in North Kivu's Rutshuru territory. Many had already been displaced by earlier clashes in May.

UNHCR on Friday started 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.

To ease the congestion at Nyakabande 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. But many people wish to stay near the border in the hope that the on-off fighting will end and they can return home.

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 and make their way to the overstretched Nkamira transit camp, which currently hosts 9,006 people. 107 people went back to Congo over the weekend and 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 the 2009 peace deal, 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 cherished 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. In a statement yesterday High Commissioner Guterres expressed his hope that the matter will be properly investigated and that those responsible will be brought to account.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Goma, Simplice Kpandji on mobile +243 81 833 132
  • In Geneva, Leo Dobbs on mobile: +41 79 883 6347
  • Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

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.

DR Congo Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Intense fighting has forced more than 64,000 Congolese to flee the country in recent months.

Donate to this crisis

Human Misery in Katanga Province's Triangle of Death

People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Katanga province have long referred to the region between the towns of Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto as the "triangle of death." Despite the presence of UN peace-keepers and government military successes in other parts of the country, the situation in the resources-rich Katanga has been getting worse over the past two years. Conflict between a secessionist militia group and the government and between the Luba (Bantu) and Twa (Pygmy) ethnic groups has left thousands dead and forcibly displaced more than 400,000 people since 2012, including over 70,000 in the last three months. UNHCR has expressed its "deep concern" about the "catastrophic" humanitarian situation in northern Katanga. The violence includes widescale looting and burning of entire villages and human rights' violations such as murder, mass rape and other sexual violence, and the forced military recruitment of children.

The limited presence of humanitarian and development organizations is a serious problem, leading to insufficient assistance to displaced people who struggle to have access to basic services. There are 28 sites hosting the displaced in northern Katanga and many more displaced people live in host communities. While UNHCR has built some 1,500 emergency shelters since January, more is needed, including access to health care, potable water, food and education. The following striking photographs by Brian Sokol for UNHCR show some of the despair and suffering.

Human Misery in Katanga Province's Triangle of Death

Statelessness Around the World

At least 10 million people in the world today are stateless. They are told that they don't belong anywhere. They are denied a nationality. And without one, they are denied their basic rights. From the moment they are born they are deprived of not only citizenship but, in many cases, even documentation of their birth. Many struggle throughout their lives with limited or no access to education, health care, employment, freedom of movement or sense of security. Many are unable to marry, while some people choose not to have children just to avoid passing on the stigma of statelessness. Even at the end of their lives, many stateless people are denied the dignity of a death certificate and proper burial.

The human impact of statelessness is tremendous. Generations and entire communities can be affected. But, with political will, statelessness is relatively easy to resolve. Thanks to government action, more than 4 million stateless people acquired a nationality between 2003 and 2013 or had their nationality confirmed. Between 2004 and 2014, twelve countries took steps to remove gender discrimination from their nationality laws - action that is vital to ensuring children are not left stateless if their fathers are stateless or unable to confer their nationality. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 42 accessions to the two statelessness conventions - indication of a growing consensus on the need to tackle statelessness. UNHCR's 10-year Campaign to End Statelessness seeks to give impetus to this. The campaign calls on states to take 10 actions that would bring a definitive end to this problem and the suffering it causes.

These images are available for use only to illustrate articles related to UNHCR statelessness campaign. They are not available for archiving, resale, redistribution, syndication or third party licensing, but only for one-time print/online usage. All images must be properly credited UNHCR/photographer's name

Statelessness Around the World

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

Edwige Kpomako is a woman in a hurry; but her energy also helps the refugee from Central African Republic (CAR) to cope with the tragedy that forced her to flee to northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last year. Before violence returned to her country in 2012, the 25-year-old was studying for a Masters in American literature in Bangui, and looking forward to the future. "I started my thesis on the works of Arthur Miller, but because of the situation in CAR . . . ," she said, her voice trailing off. Instead, she had to rush to the DRC with a younger brother, but her fiancée and 10-year old son were killed in the inter-communal violence in CAR.

After crossing the Oubangui River to the DRC, Edwige was transferred to Mole, a camp housing more than 13,000 refugees. In a bid to move on with her life and keep busy, she started to help others, assume a leadership role and take part in communal activities, including the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. She heads the women's committee, is engaged in efforts to combat sexual violence, and acts as a liaison officer at the health centre. She also teaches and runs a small business selling face creams. "I discovered that I'm not weak," said Edwige, who remains optimistic. She is sure that her country will come out of its nightmare and rebuild, and that she will one day become a human rights lawyer helping refugees.

American photojournalist Brian Sokol took these photos.

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

Uganda: A Father's TroublesPlay video

Uganda: A Father's Troubles

Forty-five-year-old Gabriel fled South Sudan with his wife and children to find safety in the UN compound in Bor. But, in April 2014, his wife was killed when an armed mob forced their way in, and now he is a single father to five children, seeking a better life in Uganda.
Uganda: Unique Approach For South SudanesePlay video

Uganda: Unique Approach For South Sudanese

Uganda has taken in thousands of South Sudanese refugees fleeing conflict. The government is helping the new arrivals by giving them land on which to build a shelter.
Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate
Play video

Our Sister, Our Mother - 2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award Laureate

The 2013 winner of UNHCR`s Nansen Refugee Award is Sister Angelique Namaika, who works in the remote north east region of Democratic Republic of the Congo with survivors of displacement and abuse by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). She has helped over 2000 displaced women and girls who have suffered the most awful kidnapping and abuse, to pick up the pieces of their lives and become re-accepted by their communities.