Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20, 2012 8:30 PM--War in the Congo

Throughout its history Uganda has had its fair share of refugees seeking asylum here.  Most of these people come from Rwanda and the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo).  Even now we are seeing an influx of refugees from the Congo.  I feel like the current war there has gotten very little publicity, but if you look it up you can see it is very real.  Living here in Uganda, even, we don’t hear much about it.  It is only by slight observations and some direct sources did I even realize it.  But whether anyone notices or not, it’s there, in the Northern Kivu Province of the DRC they are fighting…again.

One of the only reasons I know about this is because of where I live.  I’m situated on the main highway between Mbarara and Kabale in Southwestern Uganda.  This isn’t all that close to the DRC (maybe at least 4 hours depending on your mode of transportation).  So it is only because I live on the main road did I even notice the buses that come past with refugees.  And even then, the only reason I know the purpose of these buses is because I will see maybe 10 or 20 buses from the same bus company come whizzing by one after the other.  To me Congolese people look the same as Ugandan people, so other than noticing such a trend and asking around, I would have had no idea.  In fact, I found out that I could have possibly taken one of these buses back to my site today.  Apparently they go down to Kisoro empty only picking people up along the way just to make a little money.  I saw one of these buses when I was waiting for a taxi to go home from Mbarara today and I didn’t even know it.  At my taxi stage there are often buses that will stop, but I never take them because I always figure they want to take people all the way to Kabale or Kisoro and there are usually no empty seats so I would have to stand.  But after this bus passed today, someone asked where I was going and told me that I could have easily taken this bus, because it was virtually empty.  It was on its way to Kisoro to pick up refugees.  Unfortunately, I missed my chance…maybe next time.

The second reason I know about the conflict in the Congo is because of testimony from a volunteer who lives in Kisoro.  Right across the border from Kisoro is where the heart of the conflict is.  And this volunteer said you can actually hear the bombs going off from Kisoro town.  She said people have told her that you can actually see them when you climb Mount Sabinyo.  I remember when we climbed Mount Sabinyo last year, and you can see the town in the DRC just over the border.  Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not a volunteer in Kisoro.

It’s also interesting when you do actually hear Ugandans talk about these refugees.  In fact, I get the vibe that most Ugandans don’t like it at all.  And not because they feel sorry for these people who are being displaced from their homes, but because they will become squatters in Uganda, taking people’s land and take many jobs that could be occupied by Ugandans.

Overall, I am again baffled, as I have been before, that a conflict like this is not known throughout the world.  Maybe it has to do with the fact that wars like this in the Congo have happened many times before over many years and it’s just not interesting anymore.  Either way, I don’t understand why no one cares.  If this was happening in America or in Europe, trust me, people would care!

Here are a couple articles I found online about the situation in the DRC and the refugees making their way into Uganda.  Read them and be among the few Americans who are actually updated on such news:

Africa is Rising, but not in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

In Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fear of New Ethnic Conflict is Tangible

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