Uganda is to set up a new camp to cope with a influx of refugees from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the government has said.
At least 100 people a day are now crossing the border to escape an upsurge in violence, Uganda’s refugee minister told the BBC. Women said they had been raped by armed militias, who broke into their homes at night and stole food and property.
Up to 3,000 people have fled since DR Congo’s chaotic elections in November.
Several rebel groups still operate in eastern DR Congo, which is rich in minerals, despite the end of the five-year civil war in 2003.
Stephen Malinga, Uganda’s refugee minister, says a new refugee camp is needed because the settlements of Nakivale and Oruchinga, near the town of Mbarara in western Uganda, are “over stretched”.
Tens of thousands of Congolese have fled over the years – and the country is struggling to recover from the civil conflict that claimed an estimated three million lives.
The BBC’s Ignatius Bahizi visited the camps where 6,000 people have arrived since July. Recent arrivals told him of killings, abductions and rape by unknown armed men. Some of the refugees, who had fled from areas around the towns of Goma, Masisi and Rutshuru, said the armed men questioned them about how they had voted in last year’s contested polls.
The elections, the first Congolese-organised polls since the end of the war, were won by incumbent President Joseph Kabila, but rejected by veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi.
Mr Malinga, who visited the refugees last week, believes the rise in violence is unlikely to be related to politics or how people voted. “It doesn’t matter what answer people gave, they [armed groups] would mistreat the women and they would rob families of food,” he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.
“It is difficult to tell who they support and I think they are just being opportunistic to get food supplies,” the minister said.
The UN’s refugee agency says the recent movement of people is “not a massive flight yet”. “It is not so much the number but the fact that they are not safe in their country and that they need assistance,” UNHCR’s Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba told the BBC.
DR Congo is rich in minerals such as gold, diamond and coltan, which is used in mobile phones.
But years of conflict and mismanagement mean it recently came bottom of a survey of living standards around the world.
Source: BBC News Africa