The first batch of Congolese refugees has arrived in Kyangwali Settlement Camp in Hoima district days after government announced the relocation of 20,000 refugees from Bubukwanga Transit Centre in Bundibugyo district to Hoima.
At least 864 refugees arrived in Hoima on Wednesday evening in 13 buses and are temporarily residing at Kinakyeitaka Primary school pending completion of community shelters at the Kagoma refugee reception centre.
Douglas Asiimwe, the Senior Refugee Protection Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, who is coordinating the relocation exercise, says the refugees will be transferred to the Kagoma reception centre on Friday after the UPDF Engineering Brigade has erected six community shelters at the centre.
Asiimwe explains that the refugees will be at the centre for three days. They will later be allocated plots in the camp, given non-food items and later left to settle.
Asiimwe says the refugees will be relocated twice every week. The UPDF engineering Brigade personnel are roofing the community shelters and digging pit latrines at the site. The security at the centre has also been beefed up with the Field Force Unit Police detach being established.
More than 60,000 refugees entered Uganda through Bundibugyo district last month, after rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacked the town of Kamango, 15 kilometers from the Uganda-DRC border.
Meanwhile the relocation is triggering a land row as local leaders and residents accuse the prime minister’s office of encroaching on their land to resettle refugees.
George Basaija, the district councillor representing Kyangwali Sub County, claims that the refugee settlement has now been extended about 30 square kilometres into the community land in Bukinda parish. He claims that the settlement land measures only 90 square kilometres. This contravenes Douglas Asiimwe’s claim that the land measures 117 square kilometers.
Livingstone Kaganda, a 48-year-old resident of Nyamiganda village, one of those affected, says he was born in the area and that he inherited the land from his parents. Kaganda who owns 10acres of land says he has nowhere to go with his seven children and wife, even as they are being directed to leave.
Asiimwe however insists that the residents encroached on the government land and they should leave. He explains that the Prime Minister’s Office has a title to this land. About 50,000 residents most of them Banyarwanda and Bakiga face eviction from the refugee settlement area.