Congolese refugees flee to Botswana

SHARE   |   Sunday, 26 July 2015   |   By Shingirai Madondo
Refugees at Dukwi camp Refugees at Dukwi camp


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Congolese refugees, fleeing intensifying violence persistently breaking out in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s North Kivu Province and famine in the neighboring Zimbabwe, are continuing to flee into the country, The Patriot on Sunday has learnt.

Information reaching this publication is that the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are reportedly busy dealing with the influx of Congolese refugees into the country.

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Heavy fights always broke out between armed groups in the North Kivu Province – a development that results in civilians being caught in the cross fire. Some are killed while women are sexually abused in most cases.

Besides those fleeing violence from the central African nation, The Patriot on Sunday has been reliably infirmed that a number of Congolese are fleeing from Zimbabwe as Botswana’s northeastern neighbor is finding it difficult to fend for the refugees.

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According to informed sources, 3 548 Congolese refugees have been residing at Tongogara Refugee Camp situated in the eastern part of Zimbabwe, some 500km east of the neighboring country’s capital, Harare for over two decades.

With Zimbabwe’s socio-economic situation having been declining, this publication has learnt that most of the Congolese refugees at the camp are afraid of dying of hunger. It is against this backdrop that they have decided to cross the border into Botswana.

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“Through the media, we have learnt that there is a place called Dukwi Refugee Camp where some Zimbabweans have sought refuge at. We decided to flee Zimbabwe for Dukwi because the political situation in Zimbabwe is becoming as good as ours in DRC,” said a Congolese refugee from Zimbabwe who requested anonymity.

She said refugees at Tongogara camp are living a squalor life. According to the anonymous refugee, most of the refugees at Tongogara in Zimbabwe have been turned thieves and prostitutes in order to make ends meet.

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A refugee who managed to negotiate his way from North Kivu into Botswana alongside his two friends, wife and three children, Aishara said life in his native country is a living hell. He said they had to run for their life because they were being targeted since they are Tutsis.

“They killed my father and two young brothers. Now they were after me,” said Aishara fighting back tears. Aishara said he has been a constant target of ethnic fighting which is known to be the order of the day in DRC.

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He said he had no option but to run away because it was not safe for him to stay in DRC. With the help of haulage truck drivers, Aishara and the other six arrived safely in Francistown as they sought refuge.

“In 2013, they raped my wife and impregnated her. One of the three children I have is not mine,” said Aishara as he breaks into tears. He said his prayer is to find peace and security together with his children and friends.

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Superintended Lebalang Maniki could not deny nor confirm that Congolese refugees have been flocking into the country. Maniki argued that he does not have the authority to comment on national security issues.

Labor and Home Affairs Minister Edwin Batshu admitted that he has learnt about the arrival of Congolese in the country. But he could not be drawn into discussing the matter at lengthy saying he is yet to be officially approached with the allegations.

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However, security sources have hinted that about 120 Congolese refugees are currently housed at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants awaiting their approval or disapproval as asylum seekers by the government.

“Assessment of the Congolese asylum seekers is currently undergoing,” said a member of the Botswana Prison Service who refused to be named arguing that he does not have the authority to speak to the media.

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Early last month, twenty Congolese children some as young as three years were found at Ramokgwebana border post.   

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