DRC: Deadly clashes in Equateur Province forces civilians into exile

Briefing Notes, 6 November 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 6 November 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

More than 16,000 civilians have fled ethnic violence in the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), crossing the Oubangui River into neighbouring Republic of Congo to find safety after their villages were burned last week.

The violent dispute is between the Enyele and Munzaya tribes over farming and fishing rights in the village of Dongo, in DRC's Equateur province. In total 60 people hjave been killed, and the deadly clashes spread to surrounding villages, several of which were burned. Forty other people were seriously injured. Some of them are in hospital in Impfondo, northern ROC, and in the capital, Brazzaville.

The 16,100 DRC asylum seekers -- who are mainly Munzayas -- are staying in public buildings or with host communities across 11 villages alongside the Oubangui River. A UNHCR team is now visiting them and our initial assement is that they need proper shelter, food and household items such as blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans. Once a thorough assessment is made, we will work together with the government to help them. Some also need medical care, but an over-stretched mobile clinic run by a UNHCR partner cannot cope with all their needs.

The first clashes between the Enyele and Munzaya happened in March 2009, when more than 200 houses were burned the village of Munzaya and more than 1,200 residents fled to safety in the Republic of Congo. UNHCR is seriously concerned about the intensity of the violence and its spread to nearby villages, which have been virtually emptied of people.

This latest violence, taking place in the west of the DRC, the third-largest country in Africa, is unrelated to fighting going on east, which has also displaced 1.7 million people within the country.

Before the current influx, there were already some 9,000 refugees from DRC in northern Republic of Congo who had sought safety from the civil war in their country, which formally ended in 2003. Although large numbers went home to the DRC with return of peace, these 9,000 wish to settle permanently in the Republic of Congo. UNHCR is working with the government to find ways to make this possible.




Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

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In February 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire accord and began a series of talks aimed at negotiating a lasting peace. By late 2003, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons had returned to their often destroyed towns and villages.

In the midst of these returns, UNHCR provided physical and legal protection to war affected civilians – along with financing a range of special projects to provide new temporary shelter, health and sanitation facilities, various community services, and quick and cheap income generation projects.

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UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

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