A refugee family's search for peace leads to Uganda's Kyangwali settlement

Telling the Human Story, 24 September 2013

© UNHCR Photo
Ndianabho Baptist Lubhoiyo has a big family and he was determined that they would leave Democratic Republic of the Congo together and stay together in Uganda.

KYANGWALI, Uganda, September 24 (UNHCR) Ndianabho Baptist Lubhoiyo clapped his hands to quieten his children down. The animated 51-year-old Congolese refugee and his family had just arrived earlier this month at Kyangwali refugee settlement in mid-western Uganda after a long journey from a transit centre close to the border.

Lubhoiyo and 17 members of his family, including two wives, his mother, two elderly aunts, and a granddaughter born just weeks ago, were among thousands of civilians who had poured over the border into Uganda's Bundibugyo district from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in mid-July.

"Wherever we go, we go together," he said vehemently, as he described fleeing their home village of Agone in DRC's North Kivu province to escape the fighting that erupted when a Ugandan rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces, attacked and briefly held the town of Kamango on July 11.

"They slaughtered every person they saw on the way," Lubhoiyo said of the rebels. Like many others, he and his family left their home carrying just a few old mattresses and cooking pots. They left early in the morning on July 12 and walked all day to the border town of Bundingoma, where they stayed at the home of a relative.

After a month, the pressure of living with so many people in one place became too much, so Lubhoiyo decided to move his family to the Bubukwanga transit centre, which is located some 25 kilometres from the border.

But it wasn't far enough inside Uganda for people still struggling with the trauma of the attack on their village. "I made the decision to leave because Bubukwanga is near DRC, near where the killing is happening. I made the decision to go to a place where I can cultivate [crops] and have peace," Lubhoiyo explains.

So, he registered himself and his family to move from Bubukwanga to Kyangwali, the relocation site selected by the Ugandan government and set up by UNHCR. The day before relocation they were given wrist bands to show that they would be travelling, and were told what to expect during the journey and on arrival at Kyangwali.

On September 12, the family was up early to pack the belongings they had brought from their village and the household goods that UNHCR and partners provided for them while at Bubukwanga Transit Centre. Despite stopping several times for brief rests, the family found the relocation journey very long, and two of Lubhoiyo's children suffered from travel sickness they had never ridden on a bus before.

They were relieved when they arrived and were received at Kyangwali's new reception centre, which UNHCR and its partners have recently constructed. After disembarking, they gathered their belongings and moved to one of the communal shelters, where they would spend the night before being allocated a plot of land. They also enjoyed a hot meal of maize meal and beans.

Lubhoiyo expressed happiness at arriving and seeing people from his home village. His 68-year-old mother, Elizabeth, said: "I am happy. I have found people I know and it is more peaceful here than in DRC or Bubukwanga."

Lubhoiyo's 11 children were also content. His 16-year-old son Bhughiyo viewed the playground and football field at the far end of the reception centre and said: "It is a good environment, with food and a children's play place. I feel happy, as they had the same thing in Bubukwanga."

When the security lighting at the reception centre came on, the refugees started moving into the shelters. Lubhoiyo, perhaps thinking of the heavy rain on the journey, commented, "UNHCR is our family now we hope it will be like an umbrella for us".

By Hester Clark in Kyangwali, Uganda