Congolese refugees in Kisoro decry physical, sexual abuse

Congolese refugees receive counseling at CARE International tent in Nyakabande transit centre in Kisoro district. URN photo

Kisoro, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Congolese refugees who fled to Uganda following fighting between M23 rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) in Rutshuru territory, have expressed concern over the rising cases of Gender-Based Violence-GBV.

Fighting broke out last month after rebels attacked and captured three military positions in Tchanzu, Runyoni, and Ndiza in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province about three kilometers to the main border of Uganda-DRC.

The fighting left nearly 36,000 people crossing into Kisoro district and others to Rutshuru town. Though rebels declared a cease-fire on Friday, most of the refugees who had returned to their homes by Sunday evening started fleeing back to Kisoro district citing insecurity in the area.

James Odongo, senior programs manager at Care International, a non-government organization and an emergency response team at Nyakabande refugees transit centre says that the department has registered more than 50 cases of Gender-Based Violence.

Odongo says that most of the registered cases are assault, abuse, and physical and emotional torture.

Odongo also explains that they have registered three cases of rape. He says that the victims were raped by unidentified people. Odongo adds that the rape cases are currently being investigated together with other relevant authorities.

One of the Congolese refugees who preferred anonymity says that while she was fleeing fighting on Monday from Kinyamahura village, she was attacked by two men who raped her.

She says that hopes of having the suspects arrested and charged are low since their faces were new to her.

Daniel Kisamo, the settlement commandant of refugees in the office of the Prime Minister says that all the gender-based violence cases happened when the refugees were fleeing their area and none has been registered on the Ugandan side.

Kisamo says that all the GBV victims are receiving counseling and guidance while others are being referred to health facilities. Kisamo also says that the number of refugees has increased to 7,850 and expects more.

He says that with the overwhelming number of refugees, CARE international has provided light at the transit centre.

In the meantime, fighting between M23 rebels and FARDC soldiers resumed on Wednesday morning in Runyoni, Kinyamahura, and Kanombe.

Didier Nchoza, a resident in Rutshuru says that the fighting is causing more displacement of residents.

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URN

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