During the month of February 2020, 7,477 new refugee arrivals from Democratic Republic of Congo (3,776), South Sudan (3,076) and Burundi (625) sought safety in Uganda, bringing the number of new arrivals since 1 January 2020 to 13,649. The humanitarian situation remains unpredictable in South Sudan and the DRC.
Refugees from the DRC cited attacks by militia groups, abductions by rebels and family reunification as reasons for fleeing. Those from South Sudan reported insecurity, food insecurity and lack of access to basic services such as education and health as the main causes of flight.
Burundians indicate several reasons for leaving their country including, torture and unlawful arrest by militia groups.
The humanitarian situation in South Sudan and the DRC remained unpredictable during the reporting period. Most of the new Congolese refugees arrived from Ituri province across Lake Albert and were transferred to Kyangwali settlement. Those arriving at the transit centres and collection points through Nyakabande and Matanda came from Rutshuru, Goma, Uvira, Masisi, Biriza, Bukoma, and Buanza; those passing through Ntoroko mainly came from Ituri and North Kivu, Tchoma, Kasenyi, Boga, Beni, and Nyamamba. All were settled in Kyaka II and Nakivale. Asylumseekers from South Sudan continued to arrive through Lamwo district (Ngomoromo, Awenolwi, Madi Opei, Waligo Entry points), Adjumani (Elegu Collection Point) and Koboko district (Kuluba Collection Point, Oraba, Busia border point and Ocea TC).
Coronavirus Disease: An outbreak of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) was declared by the People’s Republic of China on 31 December 2019. This outbreak has now spread to all continents and 109 countries are currently affected as of 11 March 2020. The disease has spread to different African countries and the possibility of spreading to other African countries, Uganda inclusive is extremely high. On 11 March 2020, WHO declared COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Although Uganda has no case of COVID-19, the population including refugees, remains on high alert and diligently exercises preventive measures to avoid contracting the disease.
Uganda has developed the National COVID-19 Response Plan and the Ministry of Health (MoH) has issued new guidelines for travellers to Uganda. MoH has also developed “do’s and don’ts” to educate the public on how to avoid contracting the disease. The operation is currently working on the contingency plan for COVID-19, under the business continuity plan.
South Sudan Peace process: On 22 February 2020, the warring parties in South Sudan agreed to form the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) and bring an end to the protracted civil war in the country. As part of the negotiations, Dr Riek Machar, the opposition leader, was sworn in as the first deputy of President Salva Kiir. The formation of TGoNU is a major milestone in the South Sudan peace process, as it has revived hope for the cessation of hostilities and subsequent peace for the people of South Sudan, who have suffered the adverse effects of the prolonged conflict.
Rwanda-Uganda relations: The Heads of State of Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Angola, met at Gatuna border between Rwanda and Uganda on 21 February 2020, for the fourth quadripartite heads of state summit. This was part of the resolutions of the third quadripartite summit held in Angola on 02 February 2020, to resolve the tensions between Uganda and Rwanda. The summit sought to address the standoff between the two neighboring countries, which had resulted in the closure of the Rwandan border at Gatuna in 2019. However, the summit did not result in the re-opening of the Rwanda-Uganda border as had been anticipated.
Rather, the summit set new conditions to be met before the border is re-opened. Rwanda and Uganda also signed an extradition treaty, within the framework of the Summit.