Ezereta with her four children in their temporary shelter in Mombasa Village in Kyaka II Settlement Camp
Uganda has been receiving an influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Conflicts between armed groups and government forces have forced mass migration and resulted in the displacement of communities, especially in the Rutshuru, Masisi, Goma, Beni and Uvira districts.
The districts of Kanungu, Kisoro and Bundibugyo in Western Uganda have experienced a massive upsurge of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo fleeing violence.The conflict also spread to the northern parts of the DRC with refugees fleeing the country into Uganda through Lake Albert and some identified routes which are not designated border points. They end up in Kyaka II settlement.
As we were conducting an assessment of the state of DRC refugees in Kyaka II camp, we came across Ezereta.
She was preparing porridge for her children outside her makeshift temporary structure. When she was done preparing the porridge from maize floor, she shared how they were forced to watch as her husband was executed by the armed groups. “The sight of my husband getting executed is still fresh in my mind. They tied his hands at the back and shot him in the head” she said. “That same day, I started planning my escape from Budana. I was so scared because many people had been killed by the armed groups while trying to flee”.
Refugees fleeing the DRC face a number of grave challenges that make the journey extremely dangerous.
However, women, the elderly and children face the highest risks and are often killed. Boys are recruited into the armed groups and women are raped on numerous occasions. There have also been reports of the armed groups executing Congolese who are attempting to leave the country.
“I had to flee mainly during the night and avoid any contact with any militia and government soldiers” – Ezereta.
She was lucky and got to the shores of Lake Albert. She however had to pay 60,000 Uganda shillings to be smuggled across the lake into the Uganda. “Life has been extremely hard for us. Sometimes I ask myself why we had to go through these murders and killings. We are lucky to be here but we all have families and friends still stuck in DRC”.
Kyaka II is entirely owned by the government of Uganda and is 81 square kilometers. It is divided into 9 zones and has 26 administrative units, also known as villages.
Before the influx, (21st December 2017) there were 26,000 resettled Congolese. In January 2018, the settlement has reached 30,717 refugees.
Julius Kamuzu is the Assistant Camp Commandant of Kyaka II and indicated that they are preparing to accommodate up to 100,000 Congolese refugees. He said, “we are expecting 1,214 refugees from Nyakabande Transit Center today. Based on the trend we are seeing; we are planning to ensure that we can accommodate up to 100,000 refugees.”
The Office of the Prime Minister and the UNHCR are coordinating in Kyaka II to ensure that, when refugees arrive, they are taken to the reception center, where they are given hot meals and go through final registration and medical screenings. They are then allocated plots and material to construct a temporary structure as they settle, and agricultural land which they will cultivate to be able to practice subsistence farming.
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