As refugees flee Congo, French pop artist Christine and the Queens calls for attention to forgotten crisis

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19 December 2017      

French pop artist Christine, of Christine and the Queens, chats with Imani, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at Rmawanja refugee settlement in Uganda.   © UNHCR/Hannah Maule-ffinch

One of France’s biggest pop artists, Christine and the Queens, is calling for urgent attention and action for refugees fleeing violence in the Democratic of the Congo, as concern rises over the number of displaced people fleeing conflict and violence in the country.

Travelling with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, Christine visited refugee settlements in neighbouring Uganda, where, during a trip earlier this month to the country’s southwest, she witnessed over 350 refugees arriving from the DRC in a single day, with numbers rising daily.

Since 2012 some 236,500 Congolese refugees have fled to Uganda. In all 621,711 refugees from the DRC now live in more than 11 African countries, with Uganda hosting the largest number.

Commenting on the crisis, Christine said, “I want to do what I can to humbly show solidarity with refugees and shine a light on forgotten emergencies like this one. Because newsfeeds are already so saturated with information, some of the tragic refugee crises of our time don't get the coverage they urgently need. I feel it’s my obligation, as an artist and citizen, to use my voice to ensure their stories and needs reach even further.

During her visit, Christine spent time at the Rwamwanja Youth Centre, supported by UNHCR. The center holds music workshops in which young Congolese refugees can harness their talents, play music and make friends. “It’s easy to forget numbers but you can’t forget faces,” she said. “I for sure won’t be able to forget the faces of the refugees I have met here in Uganda. It’s uplifting to see a safe space for young refugees to play music, dance and be young again in the middle of an emergency zone like this,” Christine commented, “This kind of project allows gifted teenagers to spend a few hours losing themselves in the music they love before they go back to the reality of the challenges of refugee life.

UNHCR is increasingly concerned by the escalating displacement in several key regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With widespread militia activities, unrest and violence affecting many areas, the risk of further displacement is high and getting aid to people in need is increasingly challenging.

Bornwell Kantande, UNHCR’s Representative in Uganda, noted that “Uganda is currently hosting over 1.4 million refugees from neighbouring South Sudan, DR Congo, Burundi and other countries.” He added: “UNHCR is working together with the Government of Uganda to provide humanitarian assistance to the newly arriving refugees and help them become self-reliant as quickly as possible.”

Kantande went on to add: “In line with the CRRF, Uganda is strengthening refugee protection by providing integrated services to both refugees and host communities, including in health, education and job opportunities. This approach enhances refugees’ self-reliance and fosters stronger bonds between local communities and refugees. The CRRF also brings more partners together, especially development experts, to bring long-term solutions to the refugee situation and provide additional support to the Government so it can include refugees in national development plans”.

Note to Editors

Uganda is among countries pioneering an approach to managing refugee situations known as the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). At the New York Declaration adopted by all 193 UN member states in September last year, Uganda committed to continue to include refugees in local systems and share responsibility for refugees. This approach aims to strengthen protection by providing support to refugees and the host community alike, while encouraging resilience and self-reliance. The model also aims at engaging more partners, especially development actors, to provide additional support.

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