DRC: New displacement reported as military operations start in South Kivu
Tensions are rising and new displacement is being reported in the DRC's South Kivu province following last week's start of a joint Congolese-Rwandan military operation against the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) militia group in neighbouring North Kivu.
About 5,000 people have fled the Makobola area south of the South Kivu regional centre of Uvira after the so-called Mai Mai militia, which opposes the the offensive in North Kivu, blocked a main road. Some of the 5,000 displaced people are reported fleeing toward Uvira.
The threat of this new conflict also threatens to impede the repatriation of Congolese refugees from neighbouring Tanzania. Makobola is a major destination for Congolese refugees returning from exile in Tanzania. We are concerned that the growing tensions and the blockage, which has temporarily stopped all movements between Uvira and Fizi, where we also have a field presence, could force more displacement.
Our office in Bukavu, the South Kivu capital, is also reporting that the number of Rwandans opting to return home from the DRC is rising. An increasing number of Rwandan civilians, including relatives of FDLR members, are presenting themselves to our offices in South Kivu asking for repatriation to Rwanda.
Last week, we assisted 222 Rwandans to return home. Another 301 are now in a transit centre in Bukavu and various assembly points in South Kivu, waiting to be repatriated.
With more Rwandan civilians asking to go home, UNHCR is expanding the reception capacity of six existing assembly points throughout South Kivu. Those wishing to return gather at the assembly points, where they are collected by UNHCR and taken to a UNHCR departure facility..
In North Kivu, meanwhile, the ongoing joint Congolese-Rwandan offensive against the FDLR is sending more Congolese refugees to Uganda. Over the past four days some 1,300 Congolese refugees have crossed into Uganda to flee the fighting and more are arriving daily. So far, 4,500 Congolese have fled to Uganda this month and some 40,000 since August last year.
The refugees have fled from Buganza, Nyamirima and Ishasha in North Kivu. The majority of them are women and children. They crossed into Uganda through Matanda in Kisoro district and in Nyakabande in Kanungu district in Western Uganda.
In collaboration with the Ugandan government, UNHCR is providing shelter, hot meals, water, sanitation and medical assistance as well as blankets, plastic sheeting and jerry-cans to the new arrivals at the Matanda Reception Centre. Next week, UNHCR plans to relocate some of the 8,000 Congolese refugees presently at Matanda to Kyangwali refugee camp in Masindi district.