The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Congolese Refugees Adapt to Life in Kigeme

Sitting inside her makeshift house, Kobwa Mukeshimana represents hope and disappointment for all that is going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Mukeshimana is one of the thousands of Congolese refugees who fled their country after fighting between government forces and rebels broke out in April.

Currently they are hosted at Kigeme Refugee camp, in Nyamagabe District. Sitting on a jerrycan in her empty room, Mukeshimana, a mother of four, smiles when questioned about her life in DRC and how she is coping with the life as a refugee.

She says she comes from Mushaki in Masisi, in the North Kivu province of the DRC.

"We are getting used to this life" she says. "We have food, water and other basics. We have learnt to accept this situation. We cannot change it and have to cope with it," she said.

"We are waiting for the day when the conflict will end".

The woman, who fled the fighting with her husband, hopes one day she will return to her country.

"We want to return home and God willing, peace will be found," she noted hopefully.

A few metres away, children are playing while women and young girls are busy preparing lunch. Others are washing clothes.

In front of one white-UNHCR-marked tent, a visibly exhausted woman lying on a small mat.

Her name is Muhoza. She says living in a camp is not an easy thing. "But, as time goes by, we will get used to this life," she says.

Statistics indicate that 11,434 refugees live in Kigeme Refugee camp.

Like in other camps, the number of children outnumbers that of adults. About 7,000 children live in Kigeme camp.

"We will keep supporting them to make sure their lives are better," the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Antoine Ruvebana, said.

"We hope armed conflicts will end in their country so they can return. That's the most important thing we wish for them. But, as long as they are here, it is our obligation to make sure they are protected and safe, and that their welfare is guaranteed."

The fierce fighting which erupted late in April in the DRC's volatile eastern DRC has forced thousands to seek refuge in Rwanda.

"We tried to expand this camp so that refugees who came in the same period and in the same conditions live in the same place where they benefit from the same urgent humanitarian assistance," Ruvebana told The New Times.

He said the ministry has acquired 6 hectares of land that will be used to expand the camp to 28 hectares.

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