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



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Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

Edwige Kpomako is a woman in a hurry; but her energy also helps the refugee from Central African Republic (CAR) to cope with the tragedy that forced her to flee to northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last year. Before violence returned to her country in 2012, the 25-year-old was studying for a Masters in American literature in Bangui, and looking forward to the future. "I started my thesis on the works of Arthur Miller, but because of the situation in CAR . . . ," she said, her voice trailing off. Instead, she had to rush to the DRC with a younger brother, but her fiancée and 10-year old son were killed in the inter-communal violence in CAR.

After crossing the Oubangui River to the DRC, Edwige was transferred to Mole, a camp housing more than 13,000 refugees. In a bid to move on with her life and keep busy, she started to help others, assume a leadership role and take part in communal activities, including the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. She heads the women's committee, is engaged in efforts to combat sexual violence, and acts as a liaison officer at the health centre. She also teaches and runs a small business selling face creams. "I discovered that I'm not weak," said Edwige, who remains optimistic. She is sure that her country will come out of its nightmare and rebuild, and that she will one day become a human rights lawyer helping refugees.

American photojournalist Brian Sokol took these photos.

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

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2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented Sister Angélique Namaika of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award at a gala ceremony in Geneva on Monday night.

Sister Angélique, through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, has helped transform the lives of more than 2,000 women and girls who had been forced from their homes and abused by fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) or other armed groups. Many of those she helps suffered abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape or other human rights abuses.

The Roman Catholic nun helps survivors to heal by offering them the chance to learn a trade, start a small business or go to school. Testimonies from these women show the remarkable effect she has had on helping turn around their lives, with many affectionately calling her "mother."

The Award ceremony featured a keynote speech from best-selling author Paulo Coelho and musical performances by singer-songwriter Dido, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and Grammy-nominated Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam.

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