A Congolese refugee walks away to his plot of land after receiving core relief items from DRC at Kyaka II refugee settlement on Friday 30th December 2017. Photo: Moses Odokonyero / DRC.

DRC helps new Congolese refugees in Uganda

The Danish Refugee Council has offered life-saving assistance to more than 1,700 Congolese refugees arrived in Kayaka II settlement in Uganda in the last two weeks.


The vast majority of the refugees entered Uganda by crossing Lake Albert in fishing boats. Lake Albert borders Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some, however, enter Uganda from the South western town of Kisoro.
"There is too much killing there [in DRCongo]," said Hakiza Yesu, a 45 year old widower and one of the new arrivals through Kisoro relocated to Kyaka II refugee settlement in Kyegegwa district in south western Uganda.
The Danish Refugee Council is the main implementing partner to UNHCR in Kyaka II and has been operating here since 2013.
"I could not remain in Congo for fear of getting killed," said Hakiza Yesu who also revealed he is a survivor of gunshots in the stomach and the back.
"I was operated on in the stomach," he said as he pulled-up his t-shirt to reveal a long scar in the belly and a missing finger.
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DRC staff at a distribution point for core relief items for new refugee arrivals from the Democratic Republic of Congo at Kyaka II refugee settlement on December 30th, 2017.
DRC runs the reception centre in Kyaka II and provides basic and much needed assistance to the refugees on arrival.
"We have put in place the infrastructure needed to manage the influx," said Boroa Amato, DRC’s Emergency Coordinator at Kyaka.
The infrastructure includes an improved and new reception centre with iron sheet roofing and wooden walls unlike the previous one which was made of plastic sheeting.
"With support from UNHCR we give the refugees core relief items like plastic sheeting, poles for construction of shelter, plates, saucepans, cups, knives and pangas. These are basic items the refugees need to start their new life here in Uganda," added Amato.
One of the refugees starting her new life in Uganda is Nyiramwiza Expelance, 35, who has been allocated a new 50X 50 plot of land in the Kakoni zone of the settlement.
On Friday morning, as rays of the sun shone bright over Kyaka, Nyiramwiza was busy setting up her new home with the assistance of her husband and son on the land provided to her family by the Ugandan government.
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Nyiramwiza Expelance, 35, and her son setting up a fire place to prepare an afternoon meal on their new land on at Kyaka II refugee settlement on 30th December 2017. Kyaka II is located in south western Uganda.
"I am happy for the assistance to start a new life," said Nyiramwiza as she lit a fire for the afternoon meal. On a corner of her land, under a tree shade, lay a heap of items given to her family by DRC. Nearby a grader grunted and belched thick smoke as it opened a new road for the new arrivals at Kakoni zone.
Some of the Congolese refugees who have been living in Kyaka for long had come to watch developments and meet their new neighbours. One of them was 22 year old Bahati Steven who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo a year ago.
"The new refugees will feel safe here," he said.
"They are our brothers and sisters. We welcome them."
For the DRC teams, its busy days and weeks ahead as we cross into the New Year.
The latest influx of refugees began arriving in Uganda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 19th December. According to UNHCR, between the 27th and the 29th of December, 732 new arrivals crossed into Uganda, bringing the total number of Congolese refugees in the country since 19 th December to 4,667.
Kyaka II refugee settlement was initially established by the Ugandan government in 1984 to host refugees from Rwanda. Today, the majority of its population is Congolese with a few Burundians and Rwandese.
The settlement has an additional capacity of 40,000 residents. Before the arrival of the new refugees its population stood at about 27,000. The expected arrival rate to Kyaka from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is estimated at 1,000 people per week.