CONGO: Congolese refugees who fled to Uganda following fighting between M23 rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers in Rutshuru Territory have expressed concern over the rising cases of Gender-based Violence (GBV).
Fighting broke out last month after rebels attacked and captured three military positions in Tchanzu, Runyoni, and Ndiza Rutshuru Territory, North Kivu province, about three kilometres from the main border of Uganda and DRC.
Nearly 36,000 people fled to Kisoro District, while others went to Rutshuru town, as a result of the fighting.Though rebels declared a cease-fire on Friday, most of the refugees who had returned to their homes by Sunday evening started fleeing back to Kisoro district, citing insecurity in the area.
James Odongo, Senior Programs Manager of Care International, a non-government organisation and an emergency response team at Nyakabande Refugee Transit Centre, says that the department has registered more than 50 cases of gender-based violence.
Odongo says that most of the registered cases are assaults, abuse, and physical and emotional torture.
Odongo also explains that they have registered three cases of rape. He says that the victims were raped by unidentified people. Odongo says that the rape cases are being looked into with help from other authorities.
One of the Congolese refugees who preferred anonymity says that while she was fleeing fighting on Monday from Kinyamahura village, she was attacked by two men who raped her.
She says that hopes of having the suspects arrested and charged are low since their faces were unfamiliar to her.
All of the cases of gender-based violence occurred while the refugees were fleeing their area, and none have been reported on the Ugandan side.
Kisamo says that all the GBV victims are receiving counselling and guidance, while others are being referred to health facilities. Kisamo also says that the number of refugees has increased to 7,850 and expects more.
He says that with the overwhelming number of refugees, CARE International has provided light at the transit centre.
In the meantime, fighting between M23 rebels and FARDC soldiers resumed on Wednesday morning in Runyoni, Kinyamahura, and Kanombe.
Didier Nchoza, a resident in Rutshuru, says that the fighting is causing more displacement of residents.