New arrivals of refugees from the DRC in Tanzania
A reported surge in fighting between the Mai Mai and rebel forces in the east of the DR of the Congo has caused a dramatic increase in the number of Congolese refugees fleeing across the Lake Tanganyika to Tanzania, with over 4,800 arrivals registered in Kigoma since Tuesday. This morning UNHCR staff say that one boat of refugees has already put in and another two boats have been sent to Tanzanian lakeside villages to collect other new arrivals.
The jump comes after many weeks of around 200 arrivals per day. Refugees have told UNHCR staff this week that the Mai Mai, who are fighting rebels who control much of eastern DRC, have stepped up their attacks on towns in South Kivu and are warning civilians to leave the area. Congolese say that battles for the town of Baraka, in particular, have been ruthless and destructive. Rebels are now said to be staging a counter offensive.
The last three days have pushed the total number of Congolese arrivals since the outbreak of the war last August to 61,855.
UNHCR staff in Kigoma are also working to reunite Congolese families who were separated when a boat that left South Kivu on the 15th of the month ran out of fuel and came ashore in Rumonge, in Burundi. Many of the 300 Congolese refugees registered from that boat were separated from relatives as they fled the DRC.