Armed militia this morning shot two young girls who were sheltered at a United Nations camp in the conflict-ridden eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from which the Organization’s refugee agency has been relocating thousands of displaced people due to concerns for their safety.
The five-year-old girl died instantly and the seven-year-old was left critically injured and is fighting for her life in a local hospital.
A woman was also raped by armed men close to the camp in Kibati, north of Goma, the day before the shooting, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Expressing extreme concern for the safety of the Congolese civilians in their two camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kibati, UNHCR have started to voluntarily transfer IDPs to a new camp west of Goma, the capital of North Kivu.
Fighting between Government forces (FARDC) and rebel troops (CNDP) – led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda – in North Kivu intensified at the end of 2006, forcing more than 800,000 people to flee the violence.
In August the conflict flared up again displacing some 250,000 civilians, many of whom were already uprooted from their homes. Other armed groups, including the Mayi Mayi, have also been involved in deadly clashes, some of which have been along ethnic lines.
“We have so far moved 616 families, or 1,780 IDPs, to sites in the Mugunga area,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva today.
“The number of persons at Kibati willing to relocate to the new Mugunga III appears to be increasing as the first two convoys scheduled for this morning will take over 400 displaced persons,” he added.
Despite the obvious risks, many of the IDPs in Kibati camps are reluctant to move because they mostly come from villages north of Goma and the former makeshift Kibumba site, which had sheltered some 25,000 people. The relative calm of recent weeks has also convinced many to stay as close to the area as possible.
UNHCR reported that transfers to the newly expanded Mugunga III camp, which can now accommodate some 60,000 people, have involved families in the most urgent need of assistance who had previously been packed into six portable warehouses that each held 1,500 individuals.
On arrival in Mugunga III, the families are handed their luggage, plastic sheeting, sticks for constructing huts and are allocated a plot of land to build shelter. According to the agency, two 24-hour water reservoirs have been completed in time to meet the needs of the initial 6,000 people arriving at the site.
A health centre and police post been set up in the Mugunga III camp, and a total of 250 latrines have also been built, while 750 more will have been constructed by the end of the week.
“Meanwhile, we continue to bring in additional aid for the displaced population in North Kivu province,” Mr. Redmond said, adding “some 2,500 kitchen sets, 23,100 blankets and 1,364 rolls of plastic sheeting arrived from the UNHCR emergency stockpile in Ngara, Tanzania, this week.”
In related news, an investigation into the alleged massacre of civilians in the town of Kiwanja in North Kivu is being conducted by the human rights arm of the UN peacekeeping mission the DRC, known as MONUC, a spokesperson for the world body told reporters today.
MONUC is compiling evidence as well as collecting testimony from hundreds of individuals who witnessed the violent clashes between the CNDP rebels and pro-government PARECO/Mayi Mayi militia in early November and expects to complete the probe in a few weeks.
Along with blue helmets, MONUC has also dispatched mobile multidisciplinary teams – including human rights, civil affairs and child protection officers – to Kiwanja. They have been in place for most of the past four weeks, facilitating relations between MONUC military personnel and the civilian population.