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More Congolese displaced by fighting in the DRC's North Kivu

Briefing notes

More Congolese displaced by fighting in the DRC's North Kivu

4 December 2007

Hundreds of frightened Congolese have been streaming into a makeshift site near Goma, fleeing the latest conflict in North Kivu province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The displaced people arriving at Lac Vert camp were fleeing heavy fighting yesterday between rebels, renegade troops and government forces near Sake, 30 kilometres north-west of Goma.

By yesterday afternoon, a first group of some 300 IDPs fleeing from Sake were received by the UNHCR team at the Lac Vert site, some 10 kilometres west of Goma. According to the new arrivals, at least another 1,000 people were on the road heading towards the same site. The situation is subject to rapid change depending on the fighting.

The fighting near Sake followed another round of conflict on Sunday at Nyanzale, some 100 kilometres north of Goma. Since December 2006, conflict and military build up in North Kivu have led to a massive population displacement - one of the worst since the end of the civil war in 2003. Some 405,000 Congolese have been forced from their homes in the province in the past 12 months, including some 170,000 since August. In total, there are some 800,000 IDPs in the province.

All IDP sites in the Goma area are about to reach capacity. We fear renewed fighting will bring more suffering in an already desperate humanitarian situation. With sharpening inter-ethnic divides and a continuous build-up of military forces, UNHCR is deeply concerned about the risks of severe human rights abuses and violence against civilians.

Some of the IDPs arriving at Lac Vert told our staff they were woken at dawn on Monday by heavy artillery fire around Kiuri and Kingi villages, some 15 km north of Sake. The newly arrived IDPs, mostly women and children, looked shaken and tired after the 30 kilometre walk from Sake. They carried small bundles of belongings wrapped in pieces of cloth. The women said many of their men stayed in Sake to guard their property but would leave if fighting intensified. Our teams are registering the new IDPs as we plan their transfer from Lac Vert to other sites in the area.

Lac Vert site is under rehabilitation by UNHCR and our NGO partners following the transfer of more than 7,000 IDPs to UNHCR-managed Buhimba and Bulengo camps. The makeshift site at Lac Vert was overpopulated and living conditions were extremely poor.

The recurring fighting is creating problems throughout the area. During the weekend we tried to move some 2,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from public buildings in the centre of Rutshuru, north of Goma, to a newly developed site at Dumez, just outside the town. After transferring just 295 IDPs, our staff had to be withdrawn and the operation was suspended as fighting broke out on Sunday. The UNHCR team was recently deployed to Rutshuru to assist and protect an estimated 45,000 internally displaced people in that area.