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Kisoro district authorities overwhelmed by Congolese refugees in Bunagana town council

Kisoro, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Kisoro district security authorities are struggling to evict refugees roaming in Bunagana town council following renewed clashes between the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers.

Many of the refugees pitched camp in Bunagana town council while others were transferred to Nyakabande refugee transit center. On May 6th, 2022, the State Minister for Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, Esther Anyakun gave the refugees roaming the town council seven days ultimatum to voluntarily move to Nyakabande refugee transit center or return to DRC.

It came after the district authorities revealed that more than 9000 refugees were roaming at the Bunagana border and were hesitant to join the reception center. Some of the refugees have rented rooms while others have moved in with their relatives. On Friday, Kisoro officials led by the Resident District Commissioner, Hajji Shafique Ssekandi Ssengoba crackdown on the refugees. During the operation, the officials managed to round up 32 Congolese refugees including 11 adults and 21 minors.

The officials handed over the minors to Immigration officials at the Bunagana border for deportation to their country of origin, while others were detained at Kisoro police station for questioning. Ssekandi says that they are stuck because of the renewed fighting between M23 rebels and FARDC soldiers in Tchanzu and Runyoni, which pushed hundreds of refugees to flee to Bunagana town council.

He says that they have started convincing the refugees to leave the streets since the tension in Congo is very high.  Both rebels and government soldiers are yet to make a statement about the renewed fighting. Heavy gunfire exchange between M23 rebels and FARDC soldiers also occurred on Thursday at around 03:00 PM in the Jomba groupment south of Bunagana, in the territory of Rutshuru, especially in areas of Musungero, Rushari, Nyarubara, and Runyoni.

On Friday, Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Ndjike Kaïko, the FARDC spokesperson for Sokola2 operations claimed that it was the M23 who attacked the Congolese army following their repeated threats through a press release published on Thursday morning. M23 had earlier through its spokesperson, Major Willy Ngoma accused FARDC of having held new meetings with the armed groups extended to the administrative authorities of Rutshuru territory.

M23 cites in particular combatants from the Nyatura-Abazungu armed group, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) combatants, Mai-Mai, and at least 120 combatants from the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS) and Nyatura-Domi armed group. The M23 also accused FARDC of deploying on the front line, despite the ongoing talks in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

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