The United Nations refugee agency said today that attacks by a Hutu rebel group are continuing to uproot thousands in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), reportedly displacing nearly 30,000 people just over the past two weeks.
Altogether, an estimated 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu province by a series of conflicts involving Government forces and various rebel groups, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The ethnic Hutu militia known as the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), which has been the target of a joint military operation conducted by DRC and Rwanda since January, has been retaliating against civilians and attacking villages in North Kivu.
“The FDLR fighting has left more than 160,000 civilians displaced since mid-January,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.
Local authorities tell UNHCR that in the province's Lubero territory, fresh attacks on civilians by the FDLR have displaced nearly 30,000 people over the past two weeks. Newly displaced families in the Lubero area report that FDLR raids increased during the first half of March, along with growing human rights violations.
Also, further south in Masisi territory, local authorities said the FDLR mounted attacks that killed at least three civilians on 15 March and caused a number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to flee. The rebel group has reportedly threatened to continue its attacks in the area.
“Most of the displaced from the continuing FDLR attacks are spending their nights in the bush for fear of attacks and harassment,” said Mr. Redmond.
He added that UNHCR is reinforcing its activities in Masisi and trying to establish presence in Lubero for the swift delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection.
Meanwhile, the agency is concerned that continuing violence against aid workers will hinder assistance to the displaced. In the latest incident, armed men attacked and looted a vehicle belonging to an international non-governmental organization (NGO) in Rutshuru on 18 March. No fatalities were reported.
During a visit to North Kivu yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for DRC, Alan Doss, pledged that the UN peacekeeping mission there – known as MONUC – will reinforce its presence in localities and continue to logistically support the Government army in its operations against the FDLR.