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Refugees Trek Back To DRC As Nyakabande Holding Centre Shuts Down

Some of the Congolese refugees at Bunagana border trekking to Rutshuru.

Thousands of refugees have on Saturday trekked back to the war-troubled territory of Rutshuru in North Kivu Province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after the official shutdown of Nyakabande refugees holding centre in Kisoro district.

Early this month, Kisoro district authorities announced that the holding centre will be closed by the end of October this year. Congolese refugees were advised to either accept relocation to Nakivale settlement centre in Isingiro district or cross back to Rutshuru.

This month fighting resumed between the Armed Forces of Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels. Armed fighting between the two groups had paused for more than two months and the resumption has caused a fresh influx of refugees. Authorities in Kisoro district had consulted senior Ugandan government officials and agreed to make the holding centre remain operating.

However, the day after, Esther Anyakun, Minister of State for Refugees released a statement making a U-Turn about the decision.  Anyakun insisted that the holding centre must close because there are no more funds to cater to refugees.

On Saturday, our reporter visited the holding centre and found the shelter, fence and others being demolished. The reporter did not see any sign of humanitarian aid providers preparing meals for refugees. All security officers had also been withdrawn.

When contacted, Hajji Shafique Ssekandi Ssengoba, Kisoro Resident District Commissioner, confirmed that the Nyakabande centre has been closed on Saturday.  Ssekandi says that the district authorities are only implementing the directives of the minister. Ssekandi however says that refugees have voluntarily left and opted to trek back to Rutshuru while others hired trucks to transport them to the border.

RDC Ssekandi also says that even fresh refugees who were camping at Bunagana market and near Bunagana Primary School have crossed back into DRC.  According to Ssekandi, about 1,025 refugees have crossed back from Nyakabande holding centre while 3,900 have crossed from Bunagana market and near Bunagana primary school.

Refugees were seen braving rain as they trekked to Bunagana border post and crossed to Rutshuru. Jean Muhire, one of the refugees told our reporter that he will never forget what he called the suffering and mistreatment he has received from Uganda.

Muhire says that he has opted to cross back to DRC to die in his country instead of going to suffer while in Nakivale.  He says that Ugandan authorities shouldn’t have turned against refugees like this as if they don’t see insecurity happening in Rutshuru.

Meanwhile, clashes between the FARDC and the M23 rebels have continued on Saturday in Kiwanja, about 70 kilometres from Goma City. Heavy and light gun sounds could be heard since morning at around 7AM. Fighting also happened  in Nyiragongo.

M23 rebels in the afternoon hours released a video clip of their soldiers, more than 100 in number, patrolling and claiming to have captured Rutshuru town and Kiwanja and Nyongera military camp, located on the Kiwanja-Ishasha road. Civilians fled in the direction of Kanyabayonga and Kishasha.

Traffic between Goma and Rutshuru is still suspended. Users of the road are blocked on both sides, either in Kiwanja in Rutshuru and Kanyaruchinya in Nyiragongo. At the time of filing this report, fighting was still on-going.

This happens just a day after M23 rebels captured the Uganda-DR Congo border town of Busanza also known as Kitagoma in Busanza grouping and neighbouring areas of Mutabo, Nyalutemba, Kabingo, and Musezero. After capturing the border town, rebels addressed civilians and asked them to return to their homes with what they called security assurance.  The DRC government is yet to release any statement on the matter.


One thought on “Refugees Trek Back To DRC As Nyakabande Holding Centre Shuts Down

  1. The government of DRC should able to shelter and feed the displaced persons.

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