World View: Thousands of DR Congo Refugees Pour into Uganda to Escape Tribal Violence

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Thousands of DR Congo refugees pour into Uganda to escape tribal violence
  • Massive 1998-2003 war between Hema and Lendu tribes has continued violence today

Thousands of DR Congo refugees pour into Uganda to escape tribal violence

Twenty year old Mary Maurita and her newborn baby in a Uganda refugee camp
Twenty-year-old Mary Maurita and her newborn baby in a Uganda refugee camp

Tens of thousands of refugees in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been fleeing tribal violence.

More than 14,000 refugees, the large majority women and children, have fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Uganda since December 18th, 2017, because of increased tribal violence in eastern DRC. This is a big upsurge in refugees, reflecting a sharp increase in tribal and ethnic violence throughout eastern DRC.

Refugees have reported that the current situation in DRC includes armed groups burning down and pillaging villages, torching houses, shutting down schools, hospitals, and churches, forcefully recruiting young men, abducting and kidnapping innocent citizens, and raping women and girls. Some refugees were forced to pay armed groups to cross the border into Uganda to escape the violence.

Tribal conflicts are common in DRC. Since 1960, there have been more than 17 civil wars recorded, with four million deaths. For years, refugees from DRC have come to Uganda, particularly since August 2007, when government forces attacked civilians in North Kivu province in order to obtain mineral resources, including gold. At the end of 2017, there were 242,406 registered refugees in Uganda from DRC, and the number is increasing sharply because of increased tribal violence in DRC. In January alone, 13,550 additional refugees have arrived.

Because of the increased violence in DRC, Uganda is making plans to host hundreds of thousands more refugees. Uganda has a population of nearly 1,4 million refugees, of whom 1 million are from South Sudan and nearly 250,000 are from DRC. ReliefWeb and NTV (Uganda) and The Nation (Kenya)

Massive 1998-2003 war between Hema and Lendu tribes has continued violence today

After the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the violence spread to DR Congo as Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi intervened and took sides in the tribal and government violence in eastern DRC, providing troops, training, arms, and general aid to the warring sides.

The Hema and the Lendu ethnic groups of the DR Congo are both pastoralist tribes, and they have historically had wars in competition for land for their cattle. After a new Hema-Lendu war started in 1998, Ugandan militias sided with the Hema against the Lendu. The result was a massive war in the Ituri district of northeastern Congo between August 1998 and July 2003, killing some 3.3 million people, and displacing hundreds of thousands more. The point of the war was mainly to gain control over mineral rights in the tribal land. Although the war was officially settled in 2003, the violence between Hema and Lendu, as well as between other tribal groups, continues to this day.

The European Union has announced that it will offer 100,000 euros in humanitarian aid for Congolese refugees in Uganda. According to an EU official:

Renewed fighting and atrocities in DRC are driving thousands of Congolese from their homes. After the long journey, many of them arrive in the refugee settlement weakened and destitute. EU funding is being released to increase the safe water supply and improve sanitation, hygiene and health services. It is crucial that we provide dignified living conditions and prevent disease outbreaks.

According to one commenter: “This is good news for French speaking Europe: these refugees in Uganda won’t try going to Europe, but will just flock more & more to Uganda where the money is!”

Northeastern Congo is cursed with vast riches in the form of mineral wealth, in a region with many tribes and ethnic groups. The level of violence increased sharply in mid-December, resulting in a massive new surge of refugees crossing the border, which Uganda is now faced with hosting in refugee camps. Kat Nickerson (June 2012) and Defence Web (South Africa) and ACT Alliance and Observer (Uganda)

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Ituri, Hema, Lendu
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