Civilians continue to flee in fear of reprisals in eastern DR Congo

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24 April 2009Congolese civilians are continuing to flee their homes, fearful of reprisal attacks by Hutu rebels, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today, expressing concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Congolese civilians are continuing to flee their homes, fearful of reprisal attacks by Hutu rebels, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today, expressing concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).Over 100,000 people have been uprooted by raids by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the past two months, Andrej Mahecic, a UNHCR spokesperson, told reporters in Geneva.In Luofo village, nearly 200 kilometres from North Kivu province’s capital, Goma, the group has threatened local communities, engaging in a house-to-house terror campaign in which they warn those who visit, “you will all die.”The rebels – who stepped up its retaliatory attacks after the Congolese and Rwandan military concluded their joint offensive against the group in mid-February – has already attacked Luofo and another village, Kasiki, on 17 and 18 April, killing several people and torching almost 400 homes.“Our humanitarian operations in eastern DRC are continually hampered by general lawlessness and insecurity,” Mr. Mahecic said, adding that the remoteness of the area hampers delivery of much-needed aid.The FDLR has been targeting relief convoys, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and commercial traffic, he said.The situation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), who have not received sufficient aid and require medical attention, is worsening rapidly, the spokesperson noted, with at least three people dying in the past few days due to hunger and disease.Further, tensions are on the upswing between the local population and uprooted people seeking refuge at the makeshift camp in Kiwanja near Rutshuru, north of Goma, which is home to at least 11,000 IDPs. In recent weeks, IDPs have been beaten, their belongings stolen and their homes destroyed.“Some local residents are accusing IDPs of collaborating with what they call criminal elements,” Mr. Mahecic said. “IDPs are strongly denying these allegations, saying they were merely a victim of ethnic hatred and intolerance.”For its part, he said, UNHCR is providing plastic sheeting to help families rebuild their destroyed shelters and is continuing its appeals to host communities to exercise tolerance and to respect the rights of the displaced to seek safety from continued clashes.At the height of the violence last November, the Tutsi rebel militia known as the National Congress for People’s Defence (CNDP) burnt six UNHCR-run camps around Rutshuru, one of the areas worst-hit by conflict, to the ground.

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