Residents soldier burden of refugees

Six hundred sixty Congolese refugees who fled into the country following renewed fighting DR Congo on Sunday are still stranded in Rubavu.
Some of the refugees in Busasamana Sector yesterday. The New Times/ Jean Mbonyinshuti.
Some of the refugees in Busasamana Sector yesterday. The New Times/ Jean Mbonyinshuti.

Six hundred sixty Congolese refugees who fled into the country following renewed fighting DR Congo on Sunday are still stranded in Rubavu.

The refugees are scattered in Kageshi and Rucurabwenge cells of Busasamana Sector, Rubavu District.

When The New Times arrived in Busasamana, a few kilometres from Goma, yesterday afternoon, shrubs in a valley at the DR Congo border side was burning. Sources said a bomb had landed at the place.

It is the third day since the refugees arrived in the country. They are in the neighborhood where they are supported by residents.

The refugees said they are not comfortable and appealed for support so they have better conditions. They said officials have given them four days to decide whether to be taken to Nkamira transit camp in Rubavu District or repatriated when fighting ceases in their country.

“We came here fleeing from bombs. It was a surprise and everyone fled without anything. I have eight children but I came with six, we are living with a friend who takes care of us; we are a burden to his family,” Ntahompagaze Sebisogo, who fled from Kanyanja Village, said.

Tite Mpende, another refugee, said the melee found him in a church.

“We were in a church meeting when bombs landed. We just scampered away. I am scared, hungry and thirsty. We don’t even have water to drink,” Mpende said.

Mahoro Ntibabaza, 55, said she was separated from her family while fleeing and she has no information on their whereabouts.

“I don’t know where my husband is. We separated on Sunday. I have heard no news from him and I am scared. Imagine five people joining a family which is already large; we wish something can be done, so we go back to our country,” said the mother of three.

Residents welcomed the refugees but expressed fear that the burden could weigh them down.

“I received three people and took care of them. We are sharing everything,” Jean Damascene Habimana, a resident in Kageshi, said.

Sheikh Hassan Bahame, the mayor of Rubavu District, said they are waiting on the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midmar) and UN High Commission for Refugees for help.

Jean Damascene Ndayambaje, the in charge of security in Kigezi Cell, said the refugees have nothing since they fled their home country in only the clothes on them.

“Although we received them, we can’t say they are safe; nobody was ready to receive as many refugees as we did. The area doesn’t have enough water, and with increased populace, our hygiene is compromised and we risk disease outbreak,” Ndayambaje said.

However, officials said no other refugees arrived in the district yesterday.

Frederic Ntawukuriryayo, the Midmar public relations and communication officer, said they are looking at the possibility of repatriating the refugees once the fighting stops; otherwise they would be taken into a camp.

He said the district should take care of the refugees while waiting for the decision of the ministry.

Media reports indicated the Congolese army yesterday continued offensive against the M23 rebels close to the capital of Goma.

On Monday, two mortar bombs landed at Kageshi and Gasiza cells, Busasamana Sector in Rwanda’s Rubavu District from the DR Congo side, leaving the government in protest.

The residents in the area said they were calm after being assured of security by the government.

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