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Beauty remains amidst struggle; Lives of Congolese refugees in Uganda

October 28, 2013

For two weeks in October, I worked with a research team from Isis-WICCE to document Congolese women refugees experiences of war. The research is supposed to inform various political efforts to end the conflicts in Eastern DRC.
We travelled to Bubukwanga, a refugee transit camp in Bundibugyo district at the border with DRC. At the time of the visit, the centre was still receiving about 250 refugee arrivals per week.

Most of these refugees fled back in July when rebels reported to be ADF-NALU took over Kamango, a town about 10 KM from the Ugandan border.It is Beni district, North KivU Province. Some reports in Uganda media questioned if ADF was really behind the attacks.

Unlike other attacks in North Kivu, many reported the rebels attack on Kamango was more of a tactic to force displacement. One woman told me “they came to my house and said i should go to a refugee camp in Uganda because they needed this place as their playing field.

There was no report of sexual violence, the attack took many by surprise, although there had been some abductions and killings in the area for sometime.

Many reported that rebels had carried out killings especially of people who had either refused to leave or tried to go back after the day of the attack. The chief of the area was killed in the first hours of the attack, a tactic to instill fear in the population to force them out.

In Kyangwali refugee settlement where more than 5000 had been relocated, beginning a new life in a new place is tough. I spent more time at Kyangwali and got many images but would like to share these. For many elderly people, this was their 3rd time to be displaced into Uganda. In fact some of them narrated their stories in Rutoro/Runyakira.

A Congolese man carrying their daughter was walking with his wife on the way from the garden. I asked for a photo and this is what i got. This is a very rare sight in Uganda where generally gender roles can be well defined. Many men hardly carry their children.

A Congolese man carrying their daughter was walking with his wife on the way from the garden. I asked for a photo and this is what i got. This is a very rare sight in Uganda where generally gender roles can be well defined. Many men hardly carry their children.

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A young Congolese refugge girl carries an empty pan. Food for children is difficult to get for newly arrived refugees. Mostly they get maize flour and posho. Mostly children meals are given to very young ones.

A young Congolese refugge girl carries an empty pan. Food for children is difficult to get for newly arrived refugees. Mostly they get maize flour and posho. Mostly children meals are given to very young ones.

I took this photo on the international Day of Girl Child. Access to education is a challenge. Most classrooms are over crowded and not enough teachers.

I took this photo on the international Day of Girl Child. Access to education is a challenge. Most classrooms are over crowded and not enough teachers.

One of the young women I met at the villages in the refugee settlement. She wanted to work on my hair to be this cool. We didn't get time.

One of the young women I met at the villages in the refugee settlement. She wanted to work on my hair to be this cool. We didn’t get time.

Many teenage mothers struggle in the new setting. It was difficult to find a 14 year old who wasn't married.

Many teenage mothers struggle in the new setting. It was difficult to find a 14 year old who wasn’t married.

Some women at  meeting we had in Kyangwali

Some women at meeting we had in Kyangwali

More than 50,000 refugees are estimated to have entered Uganda since July from Kamango areas.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tomas Chang permalink
    October 28, 2013 6:47 pm

    Powerful pictures! There is indeed beauty even during the harsh times that those families have been suffering. Hope things get better for them and a durable solution is found for those refugees.

  2. November 13, 2013 8:54 pm

    Thanks to care givers in these revenge camps for helping these refugees

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