Tribal clashes uproot over 16,000 civilians in northern DR Congo, reports UN

6 November 2009
Villagers are fleeing their homes in the  DRC. [File Photo]

Clashes between two tribes in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have caused more than 16,000 civilians to flee their homes since last week, crossing into neighbouring Republic of Congo to find safety, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

Fighting first erupted in March between the Enyele and Munzaya tribes, whose dispute is over farming and fishing rights in the village of Dongo, in DRC’s Equateur province.

In that first round of clashes, over 200 houses were burned and more than 1,200 residents fled to Republic of Congo, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

This time some 60 people were killed and about 40 seriously injured, and the deadly clashes spread to surrounding villages, several of which were burned.

UNHCR is seriously concerned about the intensity of the violence and its spread to nearby villages, which have been virtually emptied of people,” said spokesperson Andrej Mahecic.

The agency said the 16,100 asylum-seekers from DRC, who are mainly Munzayas, are staying in public buildings or with host communities across 11 villages alongside the Oubangui River, which they had to cross to reach the Republic of Congo.

According to a team from UNHCR that visited the group, they are in need of proper shelter, food and household items such as blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans.

“Once a thorough assessment is made, we will work together with the Government to help them,” Mr. Mahecic told reporters in Geneva. “Some also need medical care, but an over-stretched mobile clinic run by a UNHCR partner cannot cope with all their needs.”

Before the current influx, there were already some 9,000 refugees in northern Republic of Congo who had sought safety from the civil war in the DRC.

Mr. Mahecic noted that although large numbers went home to the DRC after the war formally ended in 2003, these 9,000 preferred to settle permanently in the Republic of Congo, and UNHCR is working with the Government to find ways to make this possible.

 

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