The United Nations refugee agency is working to register displaced people fleeing confrontations between the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and troops of ex-General Laurent Nkunda in the volatile North Kivu province, where human rights abuses such as rape are reportedly on the rise.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported today that it has started registration of all internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the five camp sites in the Mugunga area some 15 kilometres west of Goma. Over 27,500 internally displaced have been identified.
This represents just a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of Congolese who have fled North Kivu; many are staying with host families while others are in districts not yet reached by relief workers. Once access for humanitarian personnel to displacement zones improves, registrations at other IDP sites may be possible, the agency said in a news release.
“This registration has long been awaited. Once the operation is completed, the displaced registration lists will be available to partner UN agencies and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to distribute food and other assistance goods in the Mugunga IDP sites,” said UNHCR Representative Eusèbe Hounsokou, who is overseeing the operations from Kinshasa.
Armed confrontations in the area intensified on 7 October and since then a trickle of newly displaced people have been arriving in the IDP sites close to Goma.
“Displaced report severe violations by armed groups, such as pillaging and destruction of houses, killings of civilians, recruitment of children into armed groups and cases of rape,” the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUC) said.
The mission cited statistics showing 351 cases of rape have been reported in North Kivu during September 2007, which represents a 60 per cent increase from the prior month. Survivors of rape among the new IDP arrivals are referred to specialist organizations for medical treatment and psycho-social support.
“UNHCR remains highly concerned that a further intensification of fighting may lead to the new displacement of tens of thousands of civilians,” Mr. Hounsokou added.
In New York, a UN spokesperson reported that humanitarian convoys have tried to deliver food and supplies to areas where the fighting is taking place, but many have been forced to delay operations because of insecurity.
Meanwhile, the Force Commander of MONUC, General Babacar Gaye, estimated that there are 700,000 displaced people in the province and emphasized the mission’s focus is on resolving the crisis.
“MONUC is very conscious in this situation of the consequences for the population,” he said in an interview published by the mission. “We are coordinating with the humanitarians, and we give our support in terms of security in the displaced persons zones.”
The mission is also conscious of what the DRC’s Armed Forces, known as FARDC, are doing on the ground, he added.
“We give the FARDC a certain support, in particular in the medical evacuation of their wounded, to transport their reinforcements and their ammunition. But our number one concern really remains that a fast solution is found to a situation which risks becoming a drama of a bigger scale.”
He said MONUC would be ready to absorb the forces of Mr. Nkunda in “brassage,” its retraining programme for ex-combatants to form a part of integrated FARDC brigades. “The decision to send 500 men for brassage was made by Nkunda, but unfortunately it has not been carried out on the ground,” he said. “We are ready to fully engage in this process.”