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Kisoro registers influx of DRC refugees fleeing fighting between army and rebel group

Congolese refugees arrive at Uganda border of Bunagana. URN photo

Kisoro, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Thousands of DRC nationals are crossing into Uganda through the Bunagana border in Kisoro district following renewed fighting between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo and a yet to be known rebel group in North Kivu province.

The Uganda Red Cross says that the heavy fighting which started in Chanzy and Runyoni near the Virunga ranges in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has compelled a population movement into Uganda. A number of people carrying their belongings are camped at the border while many more others are still trekking distances in long queues, heading towards the border.

Ismail Ndayambaje, the Mayor for Bunagana town council estimates that the number of DRC nationals camped at the Bunagana border is above 50,000 people. He says that they have been told that the fighting started last night with a rebel group they suspect to be M23. Sounds of gunfire can be heard about five kilometres inside DRC, an indication that fighting is still ongoing.

Ndayambaje says that by Monday morning, the rebels had already captured parts of Gisiza, Kabonero, Runyoni, and Nyarubara in Jjomba district, and were advancing to Rutshuru territory.

Ndayambaje says that DRC soldiers are visibly seen stuck in the no-mans-land at the Bunagana border and the DRC side of the border has been opened for all the locals to cross to Uganda. He says that however much the number of Congolese locals is overwhelming, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and Red Cross Society are responding swiftly to handle the situation.

Kisoro Resident District Commissioner Captain Peter Mugisha confirms that an overwhelming number of DRC nationals are fleeing to the district to seek refugee, but did not exactly give the number. Mugisha says that apart from those camped at the Bunagana border, more are still crossing to Uganda through other porous borders.

Mugisha says that authorities have already held a meeting with UNHCR and Red Cross officials to forge all the necessary means of accommodating the affected locals at the Nyakabande Refugees Transit Site. He says that Ugandan security forces have not yet fully established the details of the rebel group fighting in DR Congo.

Fresh fighting between the DR Congo government army and a yet to be known rebel group in North Kivu province happens at a time when DR Congo is also battling other rebel and militia groups like Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Mai Mai, and Cooperative for the Development of the Congo-CODECO, a militia group commanded by Bernard Kakado and Justin Ngudjolo among others.

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