African Press Association

Uganda battles surge of Congolese refugees

Congolese refugees

KAMPALA – OVER 230 000 Congolese refugees have fled violence and crossed to Uganda aboard shaky boats.

Most of the refugees, including 2 650 that crossed to the East African country this week, are feeling fresh violence in DRC’s northeastern Ituri Province – five times the usual number of arrivals.

The fishing vessels they are travelling in via Lake Albert have reached Sebagoro, a village some 270 kilometres northwest of the Ugandan capital Kampala, carrying valuable belongings such as motorbikes and livestock.

The new arrivals are reportedly fleeing intercommunal violence at Djugu territory.

Since last week, there were reports of houses being scorched in the area and people attacked with machetes and firearms.

More than 20 villages were abandoned due to the fear of reprisals.

Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said services have been paralysed and panic engulfed the population.

“Refugees report that many more people are gathering on the Congolese side of Lake Albert waiting for their turn to cross, despite the journey’s high cost,” Pouilly said.

More than 623 000 have fled to neighbouring countries while 1,4 million are internally displaced.

The journey through Lake Albert is among the most dangerous.

A tragic shipwreck in 2014 left over 200 refugees dead.

On December 26 last year, a boat carrying 45 members and fans of a local village football team capsized killing at least 30 people.

– CAJ News