'There Is Nothing Like A Chance To Live In Peace'

For someone on the outside, it is difficult to imagine what people who are still in the country are going through.
Emmanuel, tailor Kyaka II Refugee settlement

Emmanuel spends his days in Kyakya II refugee settlement sitting in the shade of a simple wooden structure. Most people from the surrounding area know him; he is the tailor.

“Not many refugees possess a sewing machine, but I brought mine from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),” he proudly says. “Well, it is my wife who carried it on her back throughout our journey from the DRC to Uganda,” he corrects himself. “Everything I carried on me was taken away by officials we encountered while fleeing, including 200 US dollars and kitchen utensils,” he adds with a calm voice.

It seems nothing can surprise or upset Emmanuel anymore. “I found my peace here in Uganda, that’s all that matters. I have seven children and all we want is to live in peace” he says. He was transferred to Kyakya II from Nyakabande transit centre in February 2018.

“In the DRC I was a tailor and a businessman. One day I was kidnapped by soldiers and taken to a forest. They kept me there for two weeks, asking me for ten million US dollars. When I failed to come up with the amount, they decided to kill me. I thought those were my last hours. However, on the day scheduled for my execution the national army was sent to the forest to fight the rebels. That’s how I was released and taken back home,” Emmanuel explains. He was afraid that his kidnappers would look for him again and consequently decided to run away together with his family.

“Honestly, I don’t think I will ever go back to the DRC. I saw people being killed in front of my eyes, I went through terrible things myself. For someone on the outside, it is difficult to imagine what people who are still in the country are going through. My brother was killed in the DRC not long ago. He left behind seven children and his wife. Recently when I spoke to her on phone, all I heard were horrifying stories. Among other things, she told me she had been raped. I have another brother back home and I am afraid of what news I shall receive when I call,” he confesses.

“Life here is far from easy, people have no money. Sometimes I may not sell a single piece of cloth for several days or weeks. What I sell is at a very low price, often not more than 5 000 Ugandan Shillings (about 1 EUR or 1.3 US dollars). Nonetheless, when I sell, I get some income to support my family,” he explains.

“I am extremely thankful to Ugandans for welcoming us into their country. There is nothing like a chance to live in peace,” he concludes.

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.