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Displacement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Briefing notes

Displacement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

6 March 2009

UNHCR is greatly concerned about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where some 160,000 people have been displaced since January.

Since the end of the joint military operation by the Congolese and Rwandan armed forces in North Kivu against the Hutu militia, Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), in mid-February, the militia group has returned to the north and central areas of the province, attacking civilians and targeting humanitarian relief convoys and NGOs.

Since 17 February, the UN has registered 17 incidents carried out by the FDLR, including the killing, looting, kidnapping and raping of civilians, and the ambushing and burning of vehicles. Most of the FDLR attacks have occurred along the main road between Butembo-Kanyabayonga, Walikale-Masisi and Rwindi-Rutshuru.

According to our team in the field, over the past two weeks the FDLR has killed 34 people, kidnapped four and injured 22 others. On 26-27 February, the FDLR ambushed several relief convoys belonging to humanitarian agencies that provide assistance to IDPs. Most of the displacement and raids have taken place in Walikale, Masisi and Lubero districts of North Kivu.

As a result of the upsurge in FDLR attacks, we find it increasingly difficult to reach the newly displaced and assess their needs. Yesterday, a joint UN team from Goma to Remeka near Masisi had to abandon its mission for security reasons.

This new displacement puts additional strains on an already dramatic humanitarian situation in North Kivu, which has a total of some 850,000 internally displaced people. They include some 250,000 forced to flee just since last August, and many of them have been displaced multiple times.

Meanwhile, the security situation in the Haut Uele territory of north eastern DRC remains volatile. Attacks by the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), intensified again in late February, following a relative lull earlier in the month. According to our team in Dungu, the regional centre of Haut Uele, the dispersed elements of the LRA continue to attack the civilian population at random. There are frequent reports of rape and pillaging.

The attacks by the LRA on the villages in the Tora area, south-east of Dungu, prompted the new displacement and have thwarted our efforts to asses and register the number of those forced to leave their homes. So far, we have registered more than 43,000 displaced just in the Dungu area alone.

People Orientale province, which includes Haut Uele, have been exposed to brutal and deadly attacks by the LRA since last September. We estimate that the total number of Congolese civilians displaced by the LRA raids in this remote part of the DRC has now surpassed 140,000. More than 900 Congolese have been killed by the Ugandan rebel group during the same period. In addition, some 16,000 Congolese refugees crossed into southern Sudan, fleeing LRA's violent rampage. They are presently sheltering in the area of Ezo, Yambio and Yei.

We continue to rush aid to this part of the DRC. During February another 32 tons of various shelter and aid material were brought Haut Uele. The distribution of this aid is starting today, assisting some 19,000 internally displaced Congolese in the areas of Ariwara and Ingbokolo close to the DRC border with Uganda.