Over 27,000 refugees have arrived in Uganda from the Democratic
Republic of Congo, after unrest in the eastern part of the country. Ugandan authorities describe the influx of
Congolese refugees as a humanitarian emergency.
minister for disaster preparedness, Tarsis Kabwegyere, told Voice of America
English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga the situation at the border is tense
because large numbers of refugees have been coming in. “I think we are now
talking of 12,000 in the last few days. We are making arrangements to move
these refugees from the border to a reception center and subsequently to our
refugee settlement center inland.”
refugees include children who are likely to have lost their parents and others
who got separated from their parents in the process of fleeing the fighting.
pointed out that most of the refugees are healthy but added, “When people have
been walking and running it is difficult. We are doing everything to make sure
that their lives are normal.”
acknowledged the assistance of international organizations such as World food
Program (WFP), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the
Red Cross. He said the Ugandan government is working with these organizations
to provide food and shelter to the refugees. “Those are our partners and they
are professional and they do a good job,” he said.
He said the
refugee influx depends on the internal situation in the DRC; the number of
refugees increases as the tempo of fighting increases.
Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has been in the DRC and there has been
talks with leaders in the region but it seems even Obasanjo is finding
difficulty in passing a message of peace to (rebel general Laurent) Nkunda.
Former president Obasanjo is a United Nations envoy to the DRC who has been trying to set up
direct talks between the rebel leader and Congolese president Joseph Kabila.
attributed the delay in stopping the fighting to the weaknesses of the
Congolese army and other internal weaknesses within the DRC.He said the refugees will eventually be
taken to Nakivale refugee camp. “We have other refugees there from Rwanda and
elsewhere. As we speak there almost 30,000 refugees there.”