Resurging violence could spark mass displacement in DRC's Kasai, UNHCR warns
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning that a resurgence in violence and renewed tensions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Great Kasai Region could trigger another wave of mass displacement in the country if the situation does not improve.
Until recently, the region had experienced a relative period of uneasy calm. But in the past month, more than 24,000 people have fled three separate conflicts related to land disputes, clashes over resources, and confrontations between different ethnic groups, authorities and militias.
The majority of the displaced are seeking refuge on the provincial border areas of Demba region in Kasai Central, and Mweka region in the Kasai.
In 2017, violence in the Kasai region led to the internal displacement of 1.4 million people within the DRC and some 35,000 refugees seeking safety in Angola.
The newly displaced report killings, rape, torture, looting and burning of homes in recent weeks. Dozens of people have arrived with injuries. There are many children, women and elderly among the displaced.
In Katende in Kasai Central province, clashes between two communities over mineral and timber resources increased throughout the month of August.
In recent days, UNHCR has received reports of conflict linked with militia trying to replace a traditional community leader with one of its members in Nteenda village in Kasai Central province. The dispute has led to the displacement of nearly 1,000 people.
As the first humanitarian responders, UNHCR is registering displaced people as well as host community members, whose capacity to help and host the displaced is often limited due to the extreme poverty and high levels of malnutrition in the area. We are helping the survivors of sexual violence and referring them for medical care and psycho-social support.
In an ongoing relief effort, UNHCR has so far distributed items including plastic sheeting, blankets, soap and cooking kits to more than 4,000 people. Thousands have also received shelter kits and cash assistance to buy food and meet their most urgent needs.
UNHCR continues to monitor the situation with our partners and respond to the needs of victims of human rights violations. We are also promoting peace-negotiations between the leaders of the different communities to prevent further clashes.
We also remain concerned for the safety of some 16,000 Congolese expelled from Angola since the beginning of this year, who continue to survive in precarious conditions in remote and almost inaccessible areas. UNHCR is assessing road conditions to prepare for the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance, should the situation continue to deteriorate.
Angola expelled thousands of people at the end of 2018 and early 2019, in operations targeting irregular migration. Among them were many former Congolese refugees, who were referred to UNHCR partner organizations for assistance.
UNHCR is calling for renewed focus on the Kasai to restore peace and defuse tensions. We are also appealing for the allocation of resources to respond to the needs of displaced Congolese in the region.
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