BURUNDI: Congolese camp out in Bujumbura after fleeing South Kivu insecurity

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Several hundred people from the Democratic Republic of Congo have arrived in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura to seek refugee status after fleeing violence in the South Kivu region.

The Congolese, from various ethnic groups including the Banyamulenge, Balilo, Bashi, and Babembe, have been camped in a playing field since the end of July.

Kakongo Lwakira, 54, told IRIN: “We fled a situation of war in the Uvira zone. I lost all my properties and my house was totally destroyed by combating groups.”

He said the conflict involved the Interahamwe (former Rwandan troops), local Mayi Mayi militiamen, Banyamulenge and government troops, fighting in the areas of Mlenge, Minembwe, Ruberizi and Rubarika in Uvira zone, South Kivu.

Jean-Marie Mhaya lost his younger brother and his grandmother. “The warring sides have been killing, raping and kidnapping many from us,” he said.

UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) public information officer Andreas Kirchhof said the Congolese, who are camping near the UNHCR office, are experiencing a “problematic situation”. He said Burundian immigration services had not established whether they were actually Congolese, adding: “These people are still waiting to get the requested papers.”

Most asylum seekers spent their days at administration offices and immigration services, he said. “They are trying to seek papers allowing them to go to refugee camps in the north of Burundi,” he added.

They claim little or no access to food and clean water. “When we get something we share with those who do not have, and sometimes we leave it for our children when it is too little,” Lwakira said.

According to Kirchhof, UNHCR has increased the number of trips to nearby camps for those with papers, “to prevent them from waiting for transfers for long”.

He said some 250 people identified as Congolese had been transported to camps at Musasa in the northern province of Ngozi, where a second check is carried out for people with no papers or suspect ones.

Kirchhof also said there were plans for a new camp for the Congolese in the southern province of Makamba.

Source: IRIN
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