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  • Writer's picturekwankew

The Nyakabande Transit Center for DRC Refugees

After about 24 hours of flight and lay-over and another 10 hours of bumpy overland travel we finally arrived at Kisoro, Uganda situated at the south-western tip of Uganda bordering on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. On our way to Kisoro from Kampala, we stopped briefly at Mbarara near where I volunteered last summer in Nakivale Refugee Camp and had a late lunch. From there it was another five hours to Kisoro passing through Kabale. I probably traveled through this region last year when I went to the Parcs Des Volcans in Rwanda to trek the mountain gorillas as I recalled having taken the same winding road up and down the volcanic mountains here. It being dark when we traveled to Kisoro, we did not see much of the mountains.

In the morning Kisoro and the surrounding regions are shrouded in fog with only the peak of one of the three volcanic mountains of the Mufumbiro Mountains peeking through it. I run through the village area and on the paths that are jagged with volcanic rocks, the inhabitants here wear heavy winter garments and wrap themselves with shawls and blankets, many still remain shoeless!

These days we were told by UNHCR and the Ugandan Red Cross that the Nyakabande Transit Center has slowed down considerably in registering newly-arrived refugees. It seems that the M23 Rebels have succeeded in seizing control of the towns near the border of Uganda and the fighting has stopped. However they cannot be certain whether there may be renewed conflict if and when the DRC government decide to recoup their losses.

Within the enclosure of the transit center are temporary UNHCR tents to shelter the refugees. There used to be communal tents that accommodated many people and hundreds of smaller tents that housed at least two families each. Many of the refugees have now been moved to resettlement area, such as Rwamwanja and the number of tents have decreased. Rain storms have also helped to take down a few of the tents. The tents are not entirely impermeable to the rain. Many of the refugees run away with few belongings and some most likely have only the clothes on their back. Food is cooked in enormous cauldrons that could fit at least five to six children and served twice a day. World Food Program determines the amount of food to be given to individual. Whether that is enough only the children's bellies can tell. At the evening meals several children hover over one of these cauldrons scrapping whatever that is left over with their tiny bare hands and licking them clean.

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