Kisoro — At least 300 Congolese refugees enter into the country through the South-Western districts of Kisoro and Kanungu seeking shelter daily, local leaders have revealed.
The leaders note that more than 12,000 refugees have been received since January.
According to the Kisoro Resident District Commissioner, Mr Shafique Ssekandi, a total of 9,536 refugees were registered at Nyakabande Transit Centre in Kisoro in January and 3,234 had been received by February 10.
Last year, Congolese refugees were entering the country at an average of 40 to 60 people daily.
"In the first week of January the numbers started to increase to between 120 and 150 people daily. By mid-month, it was 250 and at the end, the number had shot to more than 300 people daily," Mr Ssekandi said.
He noted that the refugees enter the country through Muramba, Busanza and Nyabwishenya sub-counties in Kisoro and Kayonza in the neigbouring Kanungu District.
Those fleeing, majority being children and women, among others include teachers, students, peasants, politicians, church leaders, traders, civil servants and miners.
Officials say some refugees reporting at the transit centre have military background.
According to authorities, the refugees hail from North Kivu Province in Binza, Kiseguro, Bwisha, Bukoma, Bweza Masisi, Bukavu, Jomba, Goma, Bashal, Tongo, Rutshuru and Ishasha areas. While others are from Uvilla in South Kivu Province.
But the influx of refugees has caused panic among leaders, especially those in sub-counties along the DR Congo border.
"These people say there is serious fighting between Mai Mai and Nyatura rebels. [Nyatura are Rwandese speaking and Mai Mai are Congolese speaking]. And that there is a lot of looting and extortion as rebels want money, food and animals for survival," says Mr Ssekandi.
Mr Tom Lubanga, who ran away from Kiseguro (North Kivu), said: "Rebels invade us and demand for money. If you refuse they take you and release you after money has been paid, if they don't get the money, they kill you. I ran away because I don't have money to pay to secure my life."
The LC1 chairperson for Bunagana Border Town, Ms Zainabu Nisha, says though the area is secure, they have lost business.
"We don't have business because the Congolese who have been buying things from here no longer come because of war. We have been taking goods to Congo but now we can't go there. Vehicles have also stopped using this route," she says.
Women in war zones are often raped and as a result some are carrying babies whose fathers they don't know. "Our medical teams in the camp have told us 90 per cent of women with children are rape victims," Mr Ssekandi notes.
Some of the refugees told Daily Monitor that civilians are locked in their houses before they are set ablaze.
They add the rebels are forcefully recruit young men to join them.
Mr Ssekandi further says there is increased violence in Binza, Masisi, Tongo, Bukoma and Isiagi in Ruchuru where the Mai Mai (Lendu Tribe) are harassing the Banyabwisha, accusing them of being agents of Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) have no deployments in the troubled areas which exposes civilians to attacks by armed groups.
He adds that there are fears that fleeing Congolese could be carrying diseases such as polio and Ebola and have to be screened and treated upon arrival.
"On arrival, we first immunise these people; give them first aid and treatment. Some of them come with wounds because they pass through thickets that scratch and tear their bodies. We carry out deworming," Mr Ssekandi narrates.
He adds: "The situation is not good but as Ugandans, we accept because at one time we were also refugees in other countries and we can't push these Congolese away."
By February 5, a total of 8,496 Congolese had been taken to Kyaka II Refugee Camp in Kyegegwa District, 188 were taken to Rwamwanja Refugee Camp in Kamwenge District, 54 had been taken to Nakivale Refugee Camp in Isingiro, 15 to Kyangwali (Hoima) and one to Oruchinga camp in Isingiro.
Mr Ssekandi says Rwamwanja Settlement Camp is now full and new arrivals are being taken to Kyaka II, which he says will also fill up if the current influx continues.
"Government resources meant for the local communities such as water and medicine in the nearby health units are overstretched. Many refugees come with TB, HIV, cough and malaria," he reveals.
Mr Ssekandi however urges government in Kinshasa to deploy FARDC forces to protect wanainchi in the affected areas and also open up internally displaced people's camps. This, he says, will reduce on the number of people seeking refugee in Uganda.