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Bunagana market halts operations over refugee influx

Congolese refugees flock Bunagana town.

Kisoro, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Bunagana market in Bunagana town council, Kisoro district has halted operations over the influx of Congolese refugees fleeing fighting in Rutshuru territory.

Fresh fighting between the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) resumed on Thursday last week in the areas of Rangira and Shwema. On Sunday, fighting extended to Ntamugenga, Kanyabusore, Charwika, Bugina, Mutovu in Bweza Group, and Mungo in Busanza grouping, about 10 kilometers from the DR Congo-Uganda border of Bunagana.

On Monday afternoon, gunfire exchange erupted in Musezero and Mukibaya, about 2 kilometers from Bunagana border, Kabindi about 15 kilometers from Bunagana, and Ntamugenga, displacing civilians.

The influx has forced authorities to opt for the re-opening of Nyakabande refugee holding center which was supposed to be closed at the end of this month. Refugees have also re-occupied Bunagana market and Bunagana primary school after authorities struggled to provide enough transport means to Nyakabande holding center.

On Tuesday, traders who turned up to carry out business in Bunagana market which operates every Tuesday, found the market operations suspended by town council authorities.

Ismail Ndayambaje, Bunagana town council LCIII chairman says that they have decided that market operations be halted until refugees are transferred to Nyakabande. He also says that as authorities, they are avoiding traders and buyers from mixing with refugees. He however wants the transfer expedited so that situation turns back to normal.

According to Ndayambaje, the insecurity in Rutshuru has negatively affected other businesses in the town council since the main border remains closed. He says that as a result, some traders have started shifting their businesses to the neighboring Mpaka town council and Busanza border which is still under the hands of the DRC government.

Emmanuel Maniragaba, one of the traders says that when he reached the Bunagana market to sell his produce, he was shocked to find it occupied by refugees. He says that he has opted to sell his beans along the Bunagana-Kisoro road.

On Tuesday, there was calm in Rutshuru. Peace talks to end fighting flopped after the DRC government demanded rebels first withdraw from the Bunagana border and other areas they are capturing. But rebels rejected the demands.

DRC has repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing M23 rebels, an accusation Rwanda strongly refutes. M23 rebels also deny Rwanda’s backing. On Tuesday morning, the M23 rebels president made a very short statement saying that even now DRC can make the right decision to cease the conflict.



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