Building Bridges Initiative amongst Refugees & Host Community Youthsint
Rwamwanja refugee settlement is found in Kamwenge district Southwestern Uganda. It was established in 1964 but closed in 1995 after the repatriation of the Rwandese refugees. This land was later re-occupied by the local communities living around Kamwenge district.
In 2009, Ugandans living in the areas of Rwamwanja were displaced in order to secure the area and only maintain it to house the refugee groups.
The area was reopened in 2013, after forceful eviction of the locals to pave way for Congolese refugees fleeing the M23 rebellion in North and South Kivu. The Rwamwanja settlement now hosts mostly Congolese & Rwandese refugees.
According to the Uganda Refugee Response Monitoring Settlement Fact Sheet (2018), Rwamwanja Refugee settlement currently hosts 76,000 refugees, mostly those fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo due to violence in North and South Kivu.
The increasing number of refugees in the settlement has deepened the tensions and escalated tensions between locals and host communities, this calls for lasting intervention by peace-loving stakeholders to enhance co-existence in the settlement.
The need to forge lasting peaceful relations and hope for a better future for both the hosts and the refugees particularly for the young people who are living under such extenuating circumstances prompted the Uganda Youth Interfaith Network (UYIN) a youth implementing arm of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda to develop a pilot project with the main objective of having a peaceful co-existence between refugee and host community youth in Rwamwanja refugee settlement area.
In a meeting with stakeholders held in July 2019 amongst religious & youth leaders in Rwemwanja, Hajj Abdul-Nasser Magezi, the chairperson at UYIN confirmed that there was need to equip and support youth trainers from among the refugees and host communities in order to carry out peace-building activities, livelihood skills and environmental stewardship knowledge.
Excited about the IRCU initiative, Mr. Ivan Ruhinda, the youth coordinator in the Office of the Prime Minister who also represented the settlement commandant observed that “The refugees are not begging, they are entitled and that’s the policy, we believe the IRCU project shall contribute positively in the Rwamwanja settlement area & its impact shall be felt” said.
Youth leaders in the Rwamwanja believe that the project comes in handy because there’s an urgent need for people to co-exist peacefully.
“Peace shall never be enough, Peace is shared and its needed all the days our lives, as youth we need to be focused so as not to miss out on the key important things in life” said Bashonga Paulin an officer at Anti-Discrimination Team (ADT).