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UNHCR “shocked, disturbed” over five
reported refugee deaths in Rwanda       

GENEVA Swiss (Xinhua) -- UN refugee agency UNHCR on Friday said it is “shocked and disturbed” after protests led to the deaths of at least five refugees and injuries to many others including police forces members in Rwanda.

Spokesperson Cecile Pouilly said at a UN briefing here that UNHCR is urging authorities in Rwanda to ensure safety and protection for refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DR Congo) after protests about food rations on Thursday led to the deaths.

She said around 700 Congolese refugees from Kiziba refugee camp had been demonstrating outside the UNHCR field office in Karongi, western Rwanda.

“The protests, ongoing since Feb. 20, were related to food ration cuts that have added to the refugees’ sense of despair and lack of long-term prospective,” said Pouilly.

Police were reported to have used teargas to disperse the protesters, after attempts to resolve the situation had failed and clashes were reported.

“We regret that our continued appeals for maintaining calm and restraint were not considered. This tragedy should have been avoided and disproportionate use of force against desperate refugees is not acceptable,” said Pouilly.

UNHCR is calling on authorities to refrain from further use of force and to investigate the circumstances of this tragic incident.

Pouilly noted that underfunding has severely affected humanitarian operations in Rwanda, now with deadly consequences. UNHCR’s 2018 appeal for 98.8 million U.S. dollars to support refugees in Rwanda is only 2 percent funded.

Over 173,000 refugees live in six camps in Rwanda. Kiziba refugee camp hosts over 17,000 refugees from DR Congo.



Democratic Republic of the Congo refugees killed in Rwanda food ration protests

KIGALI Democratic Republic of the Congo (Xinhua) -- Five people were killed and 22 others wounded on Tuesday as protests over reduced food rations by refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) turned violent, Rwandan police said Friday.

About 500 refugees left the Kiziba refugee camp in Karongi District and began protesting, police said on their official Twitter account.

Though officials from the government, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and local leaders told them to return to the camp as their grievances were being looked into, the protesters, armed with stones, sticks and metal objects, began to assault police officers.

Police used “proportional force” to bring the situation under control, the tweet said, adding that 20 rioters and seven police officers were injured in the scuffles.

The wounded were rushed to hospital where five protesters succumbed to their injuries.

Police said 15 refugees had been arrested for illegal demonstration and inciting violence.

The Kiziba camp hosts over 17,000 refugees, around 77 percent of whom are women and children, according to the UNHCR.

The UNHCR on Thursday called on the refugees and the Rwandan authorities to keep calm and show restraint.

It also said some refugees have indicated their desire to return to the DRC and urged the refugees to make an informed decision and not to listen to misinformation or rumors while they have the right to return to their country.

Humanitarian operations in Rwanda remain “severely underfunded,” forcing the World Food Programme to cut food rations for refugees by 10 percent in November 2017, and by 25 percent in January 2018, according to the UNHCR.

Rwanda hosts over 173,000 refugees in six camps.


More Democratic Republic of the Congo refugees killed by cholera in Uganda

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- The number of refugees killed by cholera in Uganda’s Hoima district has risen from nine to 15, while 502 others were admitted to hospitals, a Ugandan refugee official said Friday.

Jolly Kebirungi, the Kyangwali Settlement Commandant, said by Friday morning more admissions were expected.

“Most of the deaths and infections happened before we ascertained the real cause of the sickness. We have made several interventions such as case management, water treatment, sensitizasion and isolation,” Kebirungi said.

She added that so far three health centers of Rwenyawawa, Kasunga and Kituti, all in the refugee catchment area of Kyangwali, are being used as isolation centers.

“We also have a team at the reception centers where screening is done before the refugees are allowed to enter the settlement,” Kebirungi told Xinhua.

Hoima, located 230 km northwest of the Ugandan capital Kampala, is at the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Tribal clashes in eastern DRC have been fueling the refugee inflow in Uganda. About 20,000 Congolese have crossed to Uganda through Lake Albert since last December.

Fred Kugonza, the Hoima district disease surveillance officer, told Xinhua on Thursday that “the outbreak is still going on although we have made some interventions.”

“There is so much influx of refugees from Congo. Even yesterday I was at Sebigoro landing site and many of them were yet to be transferred to the settlement camp in Kyangwali,” Kugonza said.


At least two killed during anti-government march
in Democratic Republic of the Congo capital

KINSHASA Democratic Republic of the Congo (Xinhua) -- At least two people were killed and three injured during a political demonstration in the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Sunday, according to witness at the scene.

The march against the Kabila government was convened by the catholic churches to demand respect for the political agreement signed on Dec. 31, 2016. Police fired on protesters, according to the witness who required anonymity.

The DRC is going through an unprecedented political crisis since the expiry of the term of its current President Joseph Kabila. The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) has published an electoral calendar that sets the presidential elections in December 2018. But this calendar has already been rejected by opponents who have repeatedly called demonstrations since then.


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