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Excitement as family reunites after 11 years of separation

I will choose to praise the Lord for what he has done for me.” – said Dusenge Rambahose (68 years old), while lifting her hands. Uganda Red Cross, ICRC Uganda and Partners have successfully reunited Dusenge Rambahose (68 years old) with her children after 11 years of separation. This is a milestone for the Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR) programme in Uganda, supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Sixty-eight-year-old Dusenge Rambahose together with her 33-year-old Rambahose Musekura, and husband (deceased) fled DRC 11 years ago, during fierce fighting in the country in March 2012.

uganda redcross society-Family_receiving_Dusenge1
Dusenge re-united with her son

They lived in in Gachemo Binza Kiwanja, DRC. Live bullets were heard the whole night and many people were killed. Dusenge ran with husband and sick son, and crossed to Uganda. Unfortunately, her husband died when they arrived in Uganda, and was buried in Rwamwanja refugee settlement in southwestern Uganda. Upon arrival, at the Nyakabande transit center, the Uganda Red Cross family tracing desk was registering people with missing persons. Dusenge registered missing children whom she mentioned, had ran to different directions due to the chaos and hadn’t seen each other since. In 2012, Dusenge was relocated by UNHCR Uganda, the UN agency responsible for refugees in the country, from the Nyakabande transit center (Western Uganda), and was taken to Rwamwanja refugee settlement (South Western Uganda). Through the Uganda Red Cross community activities, Dusenge was identified by the Restoration of Family Links (RFL) volunteers during their routine field follow-ups and sensitizations as and was registered as a vulnerable adult. Dusenge has been living with a vulnerable son – Ndengejeho Kwigira, 33 years disabled) with mental and heart conditions, has a vision impairment, and can’t support himself. Dusenge is an elderly mother and sickly, unable to help herself and her sick son.

This compelled the Red Cross team to engage her to locate any relative who could support the family. The Red Cross team initiated a tracing request and for the last 6 years, intensive search for Dusenge’s family members has been on. A smile covered Dusenge’s face when the tracing request turned positive through both a phone call and a Red Cross Message (TC/RCM). One of her children Museruka Rambahose 40 years was traced in Isanja, Juru base camp, Nakivale Refugee Settlement (southern Uganda) on 19.09.2023. She was so excited. She was happy to speak to him on the phone.

On December 12th, after successfully going through all the Government of Uganda procedures, Dusenge with Ndengejeho were taken by the Uganda Red Cross team from Rwamwanja to Nakivale to reunite with her other son – Museruka. The three met for the first time, after 11 years of separation. “It was an emotional moment for everyone involved,” said Irene Nakasiita, Communications & Partnerships Director at the Uganda Red Cross Society. “It was tears of joy, songs of happiness and much excitement. Seeing the happiness in their faces after enduring so much pain fills us with gratitude, and makes us appreciate the efforts by the Family tracing team. Looking at the distance covered and the process involved brings so much joy to us, knowing that the family can now rejoice together and live together once again, as they used to while in back home in DRC.”

Family receiving Dusenge at Nakivale refugee settlement

When engaged about how it feels to meet after this long, Dusenge said “I choose the praise the Lord for what he has done for me.” “I thank Red Cross team for helping us meet and reunite after this long time. May God bless you. I can’t cry, because I am a man but I am so happy. I praise the Lord too for bringing my mother in my face. I thought she died.” Musekura said while lifting his hands in the space. Uganda Red Cross with support from ICRC has a program for family unification. Many people are separated from their families due to emergencies such as disasters, and war, among other reasons.

The programme involves case workers covering long distances, tracing children and their parents, vulnerable adults, and all categories of people, to reunite them with missing family members. “We use Red Cross messages, Phone calls, pictures/photographs and any information provided by family members to locate any missing persons.” Said Benard Manishimwe, Program Officer – RFL Programme. “Despite all the difficulties, almost every week we see one or several children, adults brought back to where they belong, and reunite with their families. We appreciate the support given by the ICRC, the Government of Uganda through the office of the Prime Minister, the department of Refugees, UNHCR, and other Partners involved in Protection-related activities. To reunite children, and other separated family members, we need strong partnerships and support from the different players.” Nakasiita added. Hillary Ahimibisibwe, Assistant Settlement Commandant in charge of Juru Zone (OPM – Nakivale refugee settlement) appreciated the support of the Uganda Red Cross and other Partners who support family tracing and other protection components.

Musekura expressing excitement after receiving his mother, 11 years since they separated.
Musekura expressing excitement after receiving his mother, 11 years since they separated.

We were informed about Dusenge’s case and we thank the Red Cross for making the unification possible. As the Government of Uganda, we commit to supporting all refugees and we will ensure that she settles well in this settlement, as her new home.” Ahimbisibwe added.

The family also receives support in a transitional period, including food and other basic necessities. The family also receives follow-ups by the caseworkers in the months after the reunification to ensure everyone adjusts well to the new situation. The Government of Uganda plays a key role in supporting this process. The Uganda Red Cross is supported by the ICRC to implement this programme in the country.