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.
Uganda’s 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.”
He said 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.
Kabwegyere 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.”
The minister 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.
“Former 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.
Kabwegyere 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.”