Uganda: Influx of Congolese refugees
31 October 2008

Refugees in Uganda. (Gavin/JRS)
Seventy percent of those fleeing are temporarily staying in the southwestern border areas of Uganda hoping to return in case the situation in their home villages normalises.
Kampala, 31 October 2008 Since mid September 2008, massive numbers of Congolese asylum seekers have been reported to have entered Uganda, their number estimated at 7000 by October 20, 2008, according to IRIN.

Seventy percent of those fleeing are temporarily staying in the southwestern border areas of Uganda hoping to return in case the situation in their home villages normalises. Others however, continue their way to Kampala with great hopes of finding help there.

Widespread atrocities and human rights violations like gang rapes, murders, massacres, looting and abductions are common woes faced by innocent civilians, most of them women and children, who are forced to flee from the war-torn North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The attacks in North Kivu are claimed to be carried out by rebel factions, the majority of them being under the command of Tutsi Rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda but also from the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) and the National Army.

North Kivu extremely unstable

For a long time North Kivu has been the fighting ground for many rebel faction groups and it has seen thousands of non-combatant civilians dead, abducted and displaced. Banda (not his real name), himself a refugee, recalls:  “Being born in North Kivu has become the principle reason for having to run for my life. Yesterday I was a refugee in Burundi, today in Uganda, tomorrow in Rwanda. I no longer have a family. My wife was raped to death, my daughters turned into sex slaves for rebels, and worse still, my own sons were abducted to later attack me as rebels.”  

Unfortunately the situation in Congo has worsened at a time when UNHCR intended to hold tripartite arrangements with Congo and Uganda governments to voluntarily repatriate the Congolese.

The JRS Urban Emergency Programme could feel the impact of an increased number of Congolese asylum seekers especially when the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) denied granting refugee status to the Congolese which forced them to go through the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) before being relocated to settlements. Nevertheless, JRS is networking with other refugee-serving organisations to advocate to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to refer desperate asylum seekers without status to the settlement and to UNHCR to provide transportation of those being referred. To receive more support for affected asylum seekers, JRS also closely collaborates on a large scale with religious institutions and organisations assisting people living with HIV/AIDS as well as victims of torture and SGBV.         







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