Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

DRC - Thousands of Congolese flee the new fighting in South Kivu

DRC - Thousands of Congolese flee the new fighting in South Kivu

18 July 2009

Thousands of Congolese have been uprooted by the latest escalation of fighting in the South Kivu province of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Our initial estimates show that at least 35,000 people have been displaced in the Ruzizi River plain where the DRC borders neighbouring Rwanda and Burundi. These people have reportedly fled in the wake of the latest government military campaign code-named Kimia II, which began on 12 July in the Uvira territory of South Kivu. The campaign is aimed at the forceful disarmament of the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and their local militia allies.

The latest displacement brings the total number of civilians to have been displaced in South Kivu since January 2009 as a result of clashes between government forces and Rwandan rebels and reprisal attacks on civilians to about 536,000 people.

The total number of people displaced by violence and fighting in the eastern DRC is over 1.8 million.

Many of the residents of Lemera and Mulenge, the two of the major towns in the region north of Uvira, are reported to have fled and an estimated 19,000 people are said to be hiding in the forests and villages near Lemera .

The majority of IDPs are seeking protection with host families in areas where it is still safe, while others have sheltered in schools, churches and other public buildings. IDPs in the conflict areas in the mountains of the Moyens Plateaux remain almost completely inaccessible.

There are widespread reports from IDPs of atrocities including accusations of murder, rape and torture, on the part of FDLR rebels. Fleeing populations also report arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, extortion and forced taxation by FDLR and various armed groups backing the Rwandan Hutu rebels.

Due to lack of access and insecurity it is extremely difficult to assess the scope of the latest displacement. So far, UNHCR has tentatively pre-registered some 20,000 individuals in the Luberizi - Kamanyola axis, along the Burundi border, where most of the new IDPs had gathered. Our office in Bukavu reports that families continued to be on the run throughout the week. Preliminary evaluations conducted in coordination with other humanitarian partners show that these people need food, water, medical supplies and basic aid items such as blankets, mattresses and cooking utensils.

We are also monitoring the situation of those most vulnerable, identifying people at risk and with specific needs, including victims of sexual violence and arbitrary detentions. UNHCR will also evaluate the need for shelter assistance in order to minimize the pressure on the host families and local community.

We are gravely concerned that the renewed fighting in South Kivu will have a negative impact on UNHCR-organized voluntary repatriation of Congolese refugees from the neighbouring Tanzania, majority of who are from the province.



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.