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More Congolese refugees to Tanzania

Briefing notes

More Congolese refugees to Tanzania

29 June 1999

There is apparently no let-up in fighting in South Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as refugees arrived at a rate of 100 per hour over the weekend in the Tanzanian town of Kigoma.

Confirming what prior groups have told UNHCR, refugees reported battles between Mai Mai factions, which are backing Kinshasa, and rebels groups, resulting in massive civilian displacement.

Refugees say women are being pressed into both sexual and domestic service by Mai Mai groups and that males of fighting age who have traditional marks on their chests or arms are being taken away by rebels, who suspect them of being Mai Mai fighters.

Last week's arrivals in Tanzania included two expatriate (Italian) priests, who were held for 40 days by a Mai Mai group after being accused of sympathizing with the rebels before being released unharmed. The priests described the humanitarian situation in South Kivu as "truly catastrophic."

More than 80,000 refugees have fled from the DRC to Tanzania since last August.