By Nangayi Guyson
KAMPALA,UGANDA- Many Congolese refugees who fled the fighting between DRC forces and M23 rebels who captured the City of Goma but later handed it over to government forces to enter into negotiations are vowing not to return to Congo but at least to die in Uganda.
In the recent fighting that broke out following the sacking of the political leader of the M23 rebel group, Jean-Marie Runiga, on Thursday, more than 4,000 people are believed to have crossed into Uganda through the border of Bunagan.
Mr Runiga is allied to Bosco Ntaganda, a rebel commander wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. Mr Runiga was accused of treason because of “financial embezzlement, divisions, ethnic hatred, deceit and political immaturity.
Tens of thousands of people have fled since the fighting began early last year where many have sought refuge in the neighbouring countries of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.
Over 800,000 people are estimated to have been displaced in the fighting that broke out in May 2012 when the rebels launched a rebellion against the DR Congo government.
The Congolese government and UN accused Rwanda and Uganda for supporting Rebels but both countries denied accusations. This week, the Former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, defended Rwanda while on BBC Africa saying Kagame’s government should not be singled out to blame over the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and condemned the cutting of foreign Aid to country which he said is punishing ordinary Rwandan people. Tony Blair is a personal adviser to Mr Kagame.
The M23 rebels claim they fight to improve living conditions for the poor people of eastern DR Congo. M23 and other armed groups in eastern Congo control the mines and trading routes for minerals where they profit hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Congo’s government and rebels have been holding talks in Uganda aimed at reaching an agreement on a range of issues after they left Goma.
Last week, Regional African leaders signed a peace accord in the Ethiopian capital; Addis Ababa which aims at bringing peace to the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo but many Congolese civilians who fled there feels Eastern Congo is not yet safe for them to return to.
In Uganda’s capital Kampala, we caught up with some of the refugees and asked them if they could wish to return to their country when the peace agreement between government and rebels is signed and this is what they had to say.
The refugees believes it will take long for the eastern Democratic of Congo to have peace following what it has been going through since the first Congo war of 1996.
A refugee who only gave a single name as “Seraphin” said, there are many small militias in DR Congo who are being supported by neighbouring governments and are making the situation more complicated for civilians. “These are mineral curses which the people of eastern Congo are facing, all these is happenin Congo because of its mineral, it is true Rwanda and Uganda are fueling the conflict to get chance to steal the minerals. Sometimes I feel so disturbed to live in a country which is disrupting peace in my home country but I have no other option only to keep myself alive”. He said.
He continued to say “There is no way we can go back home, we have gone through a lot of horrible things before reaching here. We would even better die here instead”.
This refugee wrote to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in Uganda requesting the government for his protection. He claims he fled his Country to live in Uganda as a refugee after receiving several attacks and threats and lack of peace that were caused by officials in the government of Joseph Kabila and also from soldiers and the rebels. All these attacks on him came from accusations due to his work of human rights activist linking to a “solidarity youth league of Aba/ Bunia” organization where he was working as a Vice chairperson in charge of monitoring the publication of articles treating denunciations of violations of rights and goods, marginalization of civilians among others by soldiers, officials in the government and the rebels.
More threats also came due to his work as teacher and were accused of mobilizing the youths to wage war against Joseph Kabila’s regime.
Rebels too went on accusing him of leading their plans to fail endorsing their lack of progress on him. When all this happen, he realized his life was danger and that he would be eliminated any time.
On 20/08/2011 by 10 25 pm a lot of soldiers stormed their house broke their door and threatened to kill him and all the family members. He escaped through the room window and fled to sleep in the bush that day but was followed up and abducted by the military who blind folded him and was taken to un known place where he was subjected to all kinds of tortures including urinating in his mouth day and night, tying his hands and legs. The parents, sisters and brothers got beaten and wounded and they looted everything valuable in the house including money.
His father was shot in a disagreement with the soldiers and the mother including the sisters was treated like animals by repeatedly being raped near to death. He was beaten and dragged and told to rape his mother as they asked him to release all the important documents which were about to be published regarding victims of war in Kisangani, Bunia and Haut ouele.
After his release, he went back home and found the whole family had deserted and Due to fear and threat, he decided to leave the place for his safety to Uganda without any documents where he has lived up to now.
The refugee thanks the government of Uganda along with the police that helped him to register and stay in Uganda. “What is hunting me is the fact that since my sister got raped, she had not accessed proper health care, therefore she is having pains in the abdomen, back, hips, infections that never end and leads to menstrual complications, and she sometime get out of her senses”. He alarmed.
Many other refugees like Seraphin, has gone through some many horrific situations and narrating their stories makes the sky their limit.