Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014, 11:39 GMT

DRC-Rwanda: Fighting flares as civilians run in eastern Congo

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 10 October 2008
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), DRC-Rwanda: Fighting flares as civilians run in eastern Congo, 10 October 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48f6f0ce1e.html [accessed 25 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BUNIA/KIGALI, 10 October 2008 (IRIN) - Serious fighting has broken out in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province and in the neighbouring district of Ituri, with thousands of civilians displaced, and others cut off, amid claims that foreign troops had deployed in parts of the east.

Ituri

The fighting in Ituri, mainly around the main town of Bunia, has left vulnerable communities without aid, including in Bogoro, 25km south of Bunia.

"As long as there is still fighting, [and] as long as the militia are still along the roads, no one will set foot, we cannot help those near Bogoro," Jean-Charles Dupin, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Orientale Province, said.

Flory Apyera, a coordinator with the German NGO Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Ituri, said the federation was to have assisted 7,000 people in the affected area but failed to reach 3,000 of this figure due to the fighting.

Insecurity has also forced LWF to stop distributing supplies to thousands of IDPs and returnees in two localities.

On 8 October, Front Populaire pour la Justice au Congo (FPJC) militiamen raided Kombokabo village, 28km southeast of Bunia.

"They came in a pick up and looted the village, before leaving, they shot at two FARDC [Congolese army] shelters and set them on fire," an army official, who requested anonymity, said.

As a result, the residents on Songolo, numbering 7,000, panicked and fled to the bush, he said.

Songolo, 40km southwest of Bunia, is already sheltering thousands of Bavi residents, a southern locality, who fled fighting in their villages.

A faction of the Front de Resistance Patriotique en Ituri (FRPI) rebels, who have been linked to the FPJC and Uganda's Lords Resistance Army (LRA), has been blamed for the violence in Ituri.

The district of Ituri had largely been calm for most of 2007 and early 2008 but has of late seen an upsurge in militia activity while sporadic clashes between the Congolese army and armed groups in North Kivu have been ongoing for more than a year.

North Kivu

In the past month alone, dozens of civilians have been injured and up to 100,000 displaced in North Kivu.

Armed groups have been on the rampage, looting even the belongings of fleeing civilians as fighting intensifies, according to the medical group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF-France).

Thousands of civilians have been displaced in the latest fighting between the army and renegade army commander Laurent Nkunda's Congres national pour la defense du peuple (CNDP) that also led to the fall of a military base in Rumangabo north of Goma.

The head of MSF in Goma, Axelle Delamotte Saint Pierre, said villagers in Rumangabo, Rubare and Rutshuru areas had been displaced and were now living with other families or in precarious conditions.

Delamotte Saint Pierre said MSF had attended to some 90 injured people at the general hospital in Rutshuru.

A local NGO official, Jerome Tanzi, said the villages of Katale, Bushenge, Kabaya, Nkokwe, Ntamugenga, Kazuba and Biruma had been emptied after the residents fled fighting between the army and CNDP.

Rwanda denies involvement

Meanwhile, the Rwandan government has denied claims by Congolese officials that troops have been deployed in eastern DRC.

Maj Gill Rutaremara, the Rwandan army's spokesman, said the Congolese army had, instead, enlisted the support of the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), composed of forces blamed for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 which fled to eastern Congo soon after the genocide.

Rutaremara was reacting to allegations made on 8 October by a spokesman in the Congolese foreign ministry, Claude Kamanga, who has said Rwanda had deployed troops in North Kivu who were fighting alongside Nkunda. On 8 October, Atoki Ileka, the DRC's envoy to the United Nations, alleged Rwanda was preparing an attack on Goma.

DRC President Joseph Kabila, in a speech on 9 October urged the armed groups in North Kivu to return to the peace process based on an agreement signed in Goma in January.

Rwanda and DRC have accused each other of supporting rebels and dissidents opposed to either regime in the past. In 1998, Rwanda invaded Congo in to pursuit of FDLR rebels, resulting in a full-scale regional war that also drew in Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe and Burundi.

Gen Vincente Diaz de Hellegas, the commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo, known as MONUC, told the UN-sponsored Radio Okapi on 8 October that MONUC would continue to help the Congolese army in its efforts to restore state authority across DRC.

De Hellegas was on a visit to eastern Congo, where he meet UN troops on the ground and observed, firsthand, the war that continues to cause massive population displacement.

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