Tens of thousands flee ‘extreme violence’ in Congo

(An extract from the Guardian 31st May – for the full article please click on the      RSS logo  icon on the left)

The number of displaced people in DRC is believed to be 2 million – its highest level in three years.

Aid workers say more than 100,000 people in North Kivu have fled mass executions, mutilations and rapes by armed militias

Villagers and townspeople in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are facing “extreme violence” with atrocities including mass executions, abductions, mutilations and rapes being committed almost daily, according to aid workers in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.

Fighting between the government army, the FARDC, and a group of mutineers led by a fugitive UN war crimes indictee, Bosco Ntaganda, has escalated since April. Armed militias including the notorious FDLR, a Rwandan rebel group based in Congo, have joined the fray in a multi-fronted battle for territory, money and power. But the violence has received relatively little international attention so far.

“The crisis in Congo is the worst it has been for years. The activity of armed groups has exploded, with militias making the most of the chaos to prey on the local population,” Samuel Dixon, Oxfam’s policy adviser in Goma, said on Wednesday. “Large areas of [North and South] Kivu are under the control of different armed groups – some villages are being terrorised from all sides, with up to five groups battling for power.

“Local people are bearing the brunt of extreme violence, facing the risk of massacre, rape, retaliation, abduction, mutilation, forced labour or extortion … In less than two months, more than 100,000 people in North Kivu have been forced to flee,” Dixon said.

Expressing alarm at the deteriorating situation, the UN refugee agency said the violence had sent tens of thousands of refugees spilling over the border into Rwanda and Uganda, while many more people were internally displaced.

“The mutiny in North Kivu is part of a broader picture of insecurity caused by multiple armed groups and by elements of the Congolese forces. Since the FARDC has been fighting the mutiny, other armed groups active in eastern Congo have opportunistically moved into areas left vacant by the army,” an internal NGO field report seen by the Guardian stated.

Overall, the total number of internally displaced people in Congo is believed to be at its highest level in three years: up from 1.7 million to 2 million.

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