Prince’s Journey To Uganda
Like most of the refugees in Kyaka II Refugee settlement, Prince was born and raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“Back home I was a journalist; this can be a very dangerous job in the DRC. It is the reason my parents are gone; I don’t know where they are. One day I returned home, and they were nowhere to be found. I kept out hope for their return, but they did not,” he explains in proper English. “I was travelling back home from work with my colleagues when we were ambushed by armed soldiers along the road. They had no uniforms but many guns,” he describes the events of some months ago with a shaking voice.
Prince has found refuge in Kyakya II only recently. His way to finding safety and security was not one without hurdles. “The soldiers brought me to a forest, tied my wrists and ankles to a chair, and left me there to slowly die,” he goes on. “After some long hours I realized the ropes around my wrists got loose, I managed to liberate my hands and then untie my feet. Afterwards the journey started,” Prince says.
It took him about two weeks of walking through the bush, eating grass and fruits he could find on trees, in order to reach Nyakabande transit centre in Kisoro district, Uganda. From there he was relocated to Kyakya II refugee settlement by Ugandan authorities. It took Prince about two weeks - walking through the bush, eating grass and fruits he could find on trees - to reach Nyakabande transit centre in Kisoro District, Uganda. “I walked barefoot the whole journey to the refugee settlement. I never knew where exactly I was heading to. I used to sleep in a bush or in caves along the way. I wore the same T-shirt that I am wearing now, it’s the only one I own,” he said, eyes bouncing between fear and sadness. “My trousers got torn along the way. The ones you see me wearing belong to my friend here in the settlement. He might come for them any moment,” he added.
“Regardless of all that, I am free,” Prince notes with relief, “Here in Kyaka II we are safe. We can move freely around the settlement, even at night. We have access to drinking water and there are proper latrines available. Oxfam is taking care of us here, protecting us and teaching us many things about proper hygiene practices. Men and women are taught about their rights and their duties, which reduces domestic violence. Parents are taught about taking better care of their children.”
“The main problem I find here is lack of jobs, which leaves us dependent only on the government food rations. I could be a driver, a teacher, or a journalist as I used to be. Also, the food rations we receive are quite small; this is because we are so many refugees. I wasn’t like this, you know,” he looks down his slim body. “I used to be bigger than I am now.”
“All in all, here I got my life back. Now I need a job to live my life in dignity, to be able to support myself… I need one desperately,” his eyes for the first time since we started the conversation filling up with tears.
Since late December 2017, the situation in Kyaka II has dramatically changed, with increasing numbers of new arrivals from DR Congo arriving via border crossings in South Western Uganda and transferring to Kyaka II through Nyakabande transit center. Total refugees in Uganda including DRC refugees and asylum seekers as of 30th June 2018 are at 1,470,981. Of these, 288,766 are DRC refugees and asylum seekers as per the UNHCR updates. Information from the new refugees and aid agencies suggests more may be expected.
The overall response according to the UNHCR July reginal update remains 89% under funded.
Oxfam started its operations in Kyakya II refugee settlement at the end of February 2018, after thousands of refugees flooded into Uganda’s refugee settlements with renewed violence in the DRC.
In Kyakya II, Oxfam is focusing on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects to reduce public health risks such as cholera outbreaks and typhoid; improving food security and livelihoods; as well as gender and protection activities such as raising awareness about sexual and gender-based violence.