A report by CARE, a global humanitarian agency with headquarters in Geneva Switzerland has indicated that a total of 14,000 people have in the past six weeks crossed from Democratic Republic of Congo to neighbouring Uganda due to the ongoing conflict by the ADF rebels.
The report dated February 8 also indicates that most of these refugees are women and children vulnerable to sexual violence at the hands of armed groups.
“Most of the displaced people arrive through the Bunagana border point in southwestern Uganda, but some brave the dangerous waters of Lake Albert to escape an even greater threat in the DRC. More than half of them are children,” reads in part the report compiled by CARE , Uganda.
According to CARE’s country director in Uganda, Delphine Pinnault, civilians are hunted down by out of control armed groups forcing them to abandon their homes and flee to save their lives.
“Refugees fleeing the DRC report that the threat includes armed groups burning down and pillaging villages, torching houses, shutting down schools, hospitals and churches, forcefully recruiting young men, abducting and kidnapping innocent citizens and raping women and girls,” the report further says.
When contacted, the spokesperson for Uganda Red Cross Society, Irene Nakasiita told the Nile Post that since December 18 ,2017, a total of 18128 refugees arrived in Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo via different border points.
“Between January 30 and February 5, 3,977 Congolese new arrivals crossed to Uganda via Kisoro (2,173), Kanungu (275) and Lake Albert (1,529), bringing the total number of new arrivals since December ,18, 2017 to 18,128,”Nakasiita said.
Children, according to the Uganda Red Cross spokesperson make up the biggest percentage of refugees crossing over to Uganda from DRC at 54, women at 23.5 and men at 22.5 since December 18.
She added that on February 5 alone, 1386 refugees crossed to Uganda through Lake Albert.
“Refugees reported that security has severely deteriorated in the area with many civilians killed and houses burnt down. According to the new arrivals more people are still gathering on the Congolese side of Lake Albert waiting for their turn to cross,”Nakasiita noted.
The Allied Democratic Forces rebel group was formed out of remnants of the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU) and Jamilu Mukulu was the group’s leader until a few years ago when he was captured by the Tanzanian forces before he was repatriated back to Uganda where he is currently detained.
They operate in North Kivu which borders other provinces including Ituri to the north and South Kivu to the South and has been a battle ground for a number of rival armed ethnic groups since 1998.
The province consists of three cities including; Goma, Butembo and Beni as well as six territories—Beni, Lubero, Masisi, Rutshuru.
The rebel outfit in December killed 14 Tanzanian UN peace keepers under the MONUSCO whereas 50 others were left injured.
Later, the Ugandan army carried out airstrikes in which over 100 rebel fighters were killed during the operation dubbed “TUUGO” by both Uganda People’s Defense Forces and the Congolese army, FARDC.
President Museveni last month met the Chiefs of Defence Forces (CDFs) and Chiefs of Military Intelligence (CMIs) of the six East African Community partner states armed forces and welcomed a military offensive launched against the ADF by the DRC Army, and supported by MONUSCO and UPDF where necessary.