Relief comes to Congolese refugees in Gicumbi District

Government on Friday announced that the standoff at Gihembe Refugee Camp had been resolved. Refugees had protested over shortage of firewood.
Some of the refugees in Rwanda.  A new suplier has been contracted to supply firewood to  Gihembe Refugee Camp.  The New Times/ File.
Some of the refugees in Rwanda. A new suplier has been contracted to supply firewood to Gihembe Refugee Camp. The New Times/ File.

Government on Friday announced that the standoff at Gihembe Refugee Camp had been resolved. Refugees had protested over shortage of firewood.

According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Antoine Ruvebana, there had been a misunderstanding with the contractor who supplied firewood at the camp that is home to over 14,000 refugees.

“It’s true the refugees had started cutting down trees in surrounding forests but now we have a new supplier and he has already started taking firewood to the camp,” Ruvebana said.

He said over 200 bundles of firewood had been supplied to the camp located in Gicumbi, Northern Province.

The previous supplier was charging Rwf11,500 per bundle and he wanted to increase by 16,500 which government rejected, the PS said.

Seeking permanent solution

However in an interview with refugees they said though their crisis had been abated, the volume of wood supplied was still small compared to the population and called for a permanent solution.

They maintain that 13 families used to share one bundle but now it has been increased to 24 families.

“I have a family of 11 and we are supposed to share a bundle with 23 other families for a month. It is not enough and the problem will persist,” Charlotte Mukakigeri, said.

The woman, who says she has stayed in the camp since 2006, saidthey had spent six months with the problem of fire-wood

Jacqueline Nyirankwano, a representative of women in the camp, highlighted that government had not informed the refugees that they would reduce the quantity wood, adding that some women had been raped as a result of having to move to forests to look for firewood.

Over 74,200 refugees, 99 per cent Congolese, live in different camps in Rwanda. Most of them fled to Rwanda as earliy as 1997, while others started thronging the country last year, following the mutiny by M23, a rebel group opposed to teh governement in Kinshasha.

Other refugees came from Angola, Burundi, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda.

 

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