The top United Nations refugee official today voiced his alarm at new inflows of refugees into Rwanda and Uganda, fleeing fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
More than 8,200 refugees have crossed from DRC into Rwanda since 27 April, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). These are in addition to the 55,000 Congolese refugees that Rwanda is already hosting.
“The displacement level we see in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is already disastrous,” said High Commissioner António Guterres. “Conflict there coupled with very limited access for humanitarian workers means that many thousands of people are without protection and help. And now people in need are appearing in neighbouring countries too.”
Government officials told UNHCR that 30,000 refugees have arrived in Uganda this month. Prior to this, Uganda was already host to 175,127 refugees, including 97,424 from DRC.
Fighting has resumed in eastern DRC in recent weeks between Government forces, dissident groups and militia, causing suffering for civilians who are experiencing displacement, human rights violations, and loss of property.
The situation has worsened in recent months, UNHCR noted, amid recent fighting between DRC forces and soldiers loyal to former rebel commander Bosco Ntaganda, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes committed against civilians in eastern DRC.
Since November 2011, when presidential and parliamentary elections were held, an estimated 300,000 people have been newly displaced, according to UNHCR. This brings to more than two million the number of people displaced nationwide in the DRC.