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FARDC, M23 Fighting Leaves Farmers Stranded in Kisoro

Richard Harerimana, a resident of Gatwe village, Bunagana ward, Bunagana town council says that he had spent six years hiring land in Mugongo, Rutshuru, and growing Irish potatoes. But when fighting escalated, he feared to go cross to harvest in this season.
Part of Gatwe village at the border of Uganda-DRC Border in Bunagana (Photo Credit Samuel Amanya)

Audio 6

Residents of Bunagana town council and Muramba sub-county in Kisoro District are struggling to cross to the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in Rutshuru to harvest their due to fighting between the Congolese soldiers and March 23 Movement (M23) rebels.

Fighting between rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) intensified in March in Bweza and Jomba groupmates. On June 12, rebels captured Uganda- DRC border of Bunagana, which connects, the major towns of Rutshuru and Goma. 

The fighting led thousands of Congolese civilians to flee to Uganda and others to Ruthruru town.   Before fighting erupted, residents living in the border areas of Bunagana town council and Muramba sub-county in Kisoro would frequently cross to areas of Rutshuru like Tchanzu and Runyoni, hire land from Congolese, and grow beans and Irish Potatoes on a large scale since the area is known for having volcanic fertile soils. 

Richard Harerimana, a resident of Gatwe village, Bunagana ward, Bunagana town council says that he had spent six years hiring land in Mugongo, Rutshuru, and growing Irish potatoes.  But when fighting escalated, he feared crossing to harvest this season. 

According to Harerimana, they fear crossing because they could be arrested by FARDC soldiers deployed in the area. He says that their fear of not crossing back started after some of the residents were arrested by FARDC soldiers and ordered to cross back to Kisoro naked.  

// Cue in: “emere na sawa… Cue out: …zo zabula.”//  

Sarafina Nyorabahindi and Sikora Nyirahabakwa, residents of Busanza village in Bunagana ward, Bunagana town council say that in addition to growing crops, they also cross to Rutshuru in Congo to fetch water. They say that due to ongoing fighting, they are unable to cross.

 // Cue in: “tutabugira none ubu…. Cue out: …ku mupaka.”//  

Agnes Nyiraguhirwa, a resident of Gakoro village in Muramba sub-county says that they cannot cross to harvest in fear that fighting could erupt when they are in gardens.  She also says that they always hear sounds of heavy guns in areas where their gardens are located.

//Cue in: “ibiryo ryacu twahingaga…. Cue out: …biravuga chaane.”//  

Fiona Nyirambabazi and Flanyira Habizana, all residents of Muramba sub-county say that the situation has caused food scarcity in the area since even the available food on the Ugandan side is feeding both local Ugandans and Congolese civilians who are camping around not in Nyakabande refugees transit center.

 //Cue in: “twahingaga mu Congo…. Cue out: …ate we.”//  

Emmanuel Kwitonda, Gatwe village LCI Vice Chairman in Bunagana town council says that each resident in the area who has a garden in Congo has lost more than One Million Shillings.

 //Cue in:  “ha hati nanye…  Cue out: …byona twaferwa.”//  

Robert Tukamuheebwa, the Kisoro Deputy Resident District Commissioner says that they can’t guarantee security for residents who are crossing into DRC.

Tukamubeebwa however admits that there is a serious looming food shortage in Bunagana town council and other sub-counties neighboring the border in the district.   He says that locals have tried their best to feed refugees who are yet to go to the transit center, but due to the influx resulting in unending fighting between M23 rebels and government troops, food has reduced in the area.

//Cue in: “we are telling… Cue out:  …. reducing tremendously.”//