UNHCR condemns killing of civilians in Eastern DRC, seeing new displacement into Burundi

Briefing Notes, 27 August 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 27 August 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR joins other UN agencies in condemning the killing of civilians during fighting this past weekend between the Congolese Army (FARDC) and the M23 rebel group around Goma, the capital of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

At least three people were killed and five others wounded on Saturday morning (24 August) when a shell landed in Ndosho, a suburb of Goma. Goma is packed with civilians because more than 150,000 people have been displaced towards the city since 2012.

Another shell fell Saturday near the Mugunga 3 camp, which shelters more than 14,000 internally displaced people. On 22 August, numerous shells landed in residential areas of Goma, killing at least four people and wounding 15 all civilians.

We remind all parties to the conflict that indiscriminate or deliberate attacks against civilians are war crimes. Civilians must not be targeted.

Elsewhere in eastern DRC, we are seeing a flaring of a longstanding conflict in the Ruzizi Plain, on the border of South Kivu and Burundi. Conflict there re-erupted in April 2012, but has sent 1,500 asylum-seekers into Burundi over the last 12 days. Asylum-seekers, fleeing the Sange, Mutalule, and Rwanena areas of the Ruzizi Plain, tell us that unidentified armed people killed eight people and seriously wounded many more.

The asylum seekers are being temporarily hosted at the Cishemere Transit Centre, in Burundi's western province of Cibitoke. Many of them who were hosted by Burundian families in the commune of Buganda have been moved to the transit centre where they can be better assisted. So far we have transferred 174 people to Kavumu Refugee Camp in the eastern province of Cankuzo, and some 341 others are on their way there.

We are still seeing people arriving in Burundi, about 60 per day, down from 150 to 200 per day last week. About 60 per cent are children.

Meanwhile, Uganda is still hosting some 50,000 Congolese refugees who fled fighting in North Kivu in mid-July. Refugees are continuing to come on their own from the border to the transit centre at Bubukwanga in western Uganda. Despite the fact that we have already transferred more than 3,000 people to better facilities at the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in mid-western Uganda, 21,344 people remain at the transit centre. A further 20,000 refugees who are staying with relatives or host families inside the Ugandan border also require help.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi, Kitty McKinsey at +254 735 337 608 or mckinsey@unhcr.org
  • In Kinshasa, Celine Schmitt at +243 81 700 94 84 or schmittc@unhcr.org
  • In Bujumbura, Bernard Ntwari at +257 7991 89 02 or ntwarib@unhcr.org
  • In Geneva, Daniel MacIsaac at +41 79 200 76 17 or macisaac@unhcr.org



Congolese Medics on Call For Refugees

Jean de Dieu, from the Central African Republic (CAR), was on his way to market in mid-January when he was shot. The 24-year-old shepherd and his family had fled their country two months earlier and sought refuge on an island in the Oubangui River belonging to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Sometimes Jean crossed back to check on his livestock, but last week his luck ran out when he went to take an animal to market. A few hours later, in an improvised operating room in Dula, a Congolese border town on the banks of the Oubangui, medics fight to save his life.

Jean's situation is not unique. Over the past two years, war in the Central African Republic has driven more than 850,000 people from their homes. Many have been attacked as they fled, or killed if they tried to return. In neighbouring DRC, medical resources are being stretched to their limits.

Photographer Brian Sokol, on assignment for UNHCR, captured the moment when Jean and others were rushed into the operating theatre. His images bear witness to desperation, grief, family unity and, ultimately, a struggle for survival.

Congolese Medics on Call For Refugees

Human Misery in Katanga Province's Triangle of Death

People in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Katanga province have long referred to the region between the towns of Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto as the "triangle of death." Despite the presence of UN peace-keepers and government military successes in other parts of the country, the situation in the resources-rich Katanga has been getting worse over the past two years. Conflict between a secessionist militia group and the government and between the Luba (Bantu) and Twa (Pygmy) ethnic groups has left thousands dead and forcibly displaced more than 400,000 people since 2012, including over 70,000 in the last three months. UNHCR has expressed its "deep concern" about the "catastrophic" humanitarian situation in northern Katanga. The violence includes widescale looting and burning of entire villages and human rights' violations such as murder, mass rape and other sexual violence, and the forced military recruitment of children.

The limited presence of humanitarian and development organizations is a serious problem, leading to insufficient assistance to displaced people who struggle to have access to basic services. There are 28 sites hosting the displaced in northern Katanga and many more displaced people live in host communities. While UNHCR has built some 1,500 emergency shelters since January, more is needed, including access to health care, potable water, food and education. The following striking photographs by Brian Sokol for UNHCR show some of the despair and suffering.

Human Misery in Katanga Province's Triangle of Death

Statelessness Around the World

At least 10 million people in the world today are stateless. They are told that they don't belong anywhere. They are denied a nationality. And without one, they are denied their basic rights. From the moment they are born they are deprived of not only citizenship but, in many cases, even documentation of their birth. Many struggle throughout their lives with limited or no access to education, health care, employment, freedom of movement or sense of security. Many are unable to marry, while some people choose not to have children just to avoid passing on the stigma of statelessness. Even at the end of their lives, many stateless people are denied the dignity of a death certificate and proper burial.

The human impact of statelessness is tremendous. Generations and entire communities can be affected. But, with political will, statelessness is relatively easy to resolve. Thanks to government action, more than 4 million stateless people acquired a nationality between 2003 and 2013 or had their nationality confirmed. Between 2004 and 2014, twelve countries took steps to remove gender discrimination from their nationality laws - action that is vital to ensuring children are not left stateless if their fathers are stateless or unable to confer their nationality. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 42 accessions to the two statelessness conventions - indication of a growing consensus on the need to tackle statelessness. UNHCR's 10-year Campaign to End Statelessness seeks to give impetus to this. The campaign calls on states to take 10 actions that would bring a definitive end to this problem and the suffering it causes.

These images are available for use only to illustrate articles related to UNHCR statelessness campaign. They are not available for archiving, resale, redistribution, syndication or third party licensing, but only for one-time print/online usage. All images must be properly credited UNHCR/photographer's name

Statelessness Around the World

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