DRC - new displacement in North Kivu

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 26 January 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The continuing military operations and banditry by armed groups in the troubled North Kivu province in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have forced thousands of civilians to leave their homes over the past two months.

Since December last year, UNHCR registered 15,508 newly displaced people (IDPs) as they approached dozens of UNHCR-run sites, seeking shelter and safety. According to the fleeing families the situation was difficult and unsafe in their villages in the western part of North Kivu where military operations and rampaging by armed groups are forcing civilians to seek safety elsewhere.

We registered the newly arrived IDPs in camps in and around Kitchanga, in an area spreading some 50km to 150km north-west of Goma, the capital of the province. This latest wave of displacement brings the total camp population to 116,000 IDPs. UNHCR is currently managing 47 IDP camps in the region, providing protection and assistance.

We estimate that so far we have registered only a part of the recently displaced population and that many more could be sheltering with host families or hiding in the woods fearing to return to their homes. These IDPs cannot be accessed due to insecurity and impassable roads.

The Congolese government launched several offensives during 2009 aimed at neutralising the Rwandan Hutu militia - the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). However, other militias and armed groups have taken advantage of the situation, attacking civilians, looting property, committing rape and burning homes.

There is an estimated total of 2.1 million IDPs in eastern DRC where harassment, human rights abuses, rapes and intimidations against civilians are regularly reported by the local population.