HELP ALERT- One million displaced in Congo: United Nations


The continuous violence between government forces and tribal militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s central Kasai region has forced more than a million people from their homes over the past eight months.

United Nations explained that the fighting erupted after government troops last August killed tribal chief Jean Pierre Mpandi, also known as Kamwina Nsapu, who had launched an uprising against President Joseph Kabila. Yvon Edoumou of the UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it had registered 1.09 million internally displaced people in the region as of April 1.

“Violence in other areas of the country, including the North and South Kivu provinces, has forced an additional two million to flee their homes” he stated.

However, the UN has accused the Nsapu rebellion of using child soldiers and committing several atrocities, while also denouncing the disproportionate use of force by the military.

The UN also reported finding 40 mass graves in the Kasai region, and the bodies of two UN researchers investigating the violence were found in a grave 16 days after they were abducted last month.

In order to assist the displaced persons, the United Nations refugee agency is shipping tents, mosquito nets and other essential relief items to Angola, where some 9,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have fled this month alone.

“Refugees reported fleeing attacks from militia groups, who are targeting police, military officials, and civilians who they believe are supporting or representing the Government,” Babar Baloch, spokesperson at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said at the UN’s Geneva Office.

It was also confirmed that UNHCR is sending an additional emergency team to the town, to support relief efforts. There are concerns that the situation will worsen as Angola’s wet season peaks in April, further complicating living conditions and the health of refugees, particularly women, children, the elderly and the disabled.

“The new arrivals are terrified and still fear for their lives and mentioned they do not have any immediate plans to return home. Some parents have reportedly sent their children across the border, worrying they would be forcibly recruited by the militias if they had stayed in the DRC.” Mr. Baloch said.

Agencies are particularly concern about the situation of children in Kasaï. An estimated 2,000 children were being used by the militias in the affected region and were yet to return to their homes, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“These children were being killed or injured in the fighting, and were often arrested and imprisoned,” UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac said in Geneva. He further explained that more than 4,000 children had been separated from their families and at least 300 seriously injured, according to the UN agency.

“Those children should be safe in their homes, schools and playgrounds, not forced to fight on the battlefield or wounded or killed in the violence,” Mr. Boulierac added.

The education and health systems in the region had been negatively affected as a result of the violence. More than 350 schools had been destroyed in the provinces of Kasaï Central and Kasaï Oriental, and one out of three health centres no longer function. The UN refugee agency echoed this concern, saying many of the children arriving in Angola are malnourished and sick “suffering from diarrhoea, fever and malaria.”

Congo needs an urgent world’s support to curb this deadly situation. There is need for peace to reign in order to sustain development.

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