The Mother of the three deceased has passed away on 16th August 2017 due to the fire wounds. The father still striving with the wounds. Rwampfizi, the father and husband has too died on 17th August 2017 due to the fire wounds. It is unfortunate for a family seeking shelter to die under the UNHCR protection. Pray for the 3 orphans left in this family.
Nyarugusu refugee camp is located in Tanzania, Kigoma district around 150 Kms from the Tanganyika Lac bordering Burundi, DRC. It was established since November 1996 to accommodate mostly Congolese refugees fleeing the recurrent wars in the Eastern Congo region, specifically the Alliance de Forces Démocratiques pour Libération du Congo/Zaire (AFDL) rebellion and the whole local ethnic confrontations in the Fizi-Uvira region that followed. It looks like the confrontation and grudge has been exported to Tanzania as this week 3 children of less than 5 years have succumbed from their injuries resulting on a likely planned ethnical killing. The ongoing military confrontation in Lulimba, Misisi, Nganja, Kikonde would have played a fuel role in the incident.
Distant of roughly 1400 Kms from the Tanzanian main city, the Nyarugusu refugee camp is currently hosting approximately 110,000 refugees from DRC and Burundi. The statistics keep changing due to the socio-political turmoil in the region, especially Burundi due to the 2015 electoral contestation. The 2015 Burundi crisis had displaced around 80,000 individuals whom the half are hosted in Nduta and Mutendeli camps. The current figures show that 58% of the Nyarugusu camp is Congolese of origin and mostly from the South-Kivu. The ethnic communities hosted in the Nyarugusu would mostly be Babembe, Bafuliro, Bavira, Babwari and few Banyamulenge.
The cohabitation in such mega refugee camp hadn’t been very critical for simple reasons; refugees have to comply with internal and UNHCR rules and regulations. However, an incident took place last week when Rwampfizi’s tent went burnt around 00.30H. It was the night of 10/08/2017; three days before his community commemorate the Gatumba massacre that happened in Burundi. As per my sources, Rwampfizi had arrived in Tanzania 3 months before the incident took place. He is among the 35 Banyamulenge families who have sought refuge in Tanzania this year due to the widening of confrontation in the Uvira-Fizi counties. In total, members Banyamulenge community in Nyarugusu are estimated around 130 individuals, men, women and children. Despite 4-5 families who have already spent few years in the camp, most of them have arrived in Nyarugusu around the same period as Rwampfizi.
The incident had unfortunately cost lives of the twins Bukuru (boy) and Butoto (girl) who were 5 years but also Mbonyi Kana (a 3 years girl). The deceased young children have been buried yesterday, adding the sorrow to the unmanageable situation of the parents. The parents are in the critical conditions, striving with the injuries to the extent that the mother would possibly become blind as the fire has deeply affected the head and face. The incident that reminds the Gatumba massacre for his larger ethnic community, his perpetrators have used fuel to burn the tent while the family were in a deep sleep. The two yet survivors, father and the mother are in the hospital and need a support from whoever thinks can help. We have had hard to get in contact with the UNHCR to inquire if it would be able to support the appropriate treatment; but it has possibly to do so.
What strikes, the plan of harming Banyamulenge community in Nyarugusu has been reported to a Police officer whose name is ASHA (sorry for misspelling) in July 2017 and she has promised to inquire with the Refugee Camp Management to get the appropriate solution. Few weeks later, Rwampfizi’s family had paid the price of the sluggishness of the UN bodies in decision making. The slowness of tackling the concern may also result in the underestimate of the deep hatred and resentment among ethnic communities in their region of origin. In addition, the fate of these Banyamulenge remains unpredictable. Since the night of the incident, they have all moved at the camp’s reception center (1.5 Km from the main camp) to re-seek protection even though they are scared of a possible decision to force them to return into their tents. Unless differently conceived, the UNHCR and Tanzanian Government are responsible―accountable for the protection of refugee-seekers. They have to make sure perpetrators have been identified but mostly potential victims are sufficiently protected.
The victims request help to anyone able to do something so that they won’t fall in the same fate as did these young victims. You want to support in any way, let us know by dropping a message, we will enable you to get in touch with the survivors/victims.
PhD Researcher in Conflict Economics
The Institute of Social Studies/
Erasmus University Rotterdam