Even as some armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are being contained through peace pacts and military action, new fighting between other militias has driven more than 30,000 people from their homes, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
“The latest flare-up threatens to reverse the considerable progress made in the repatriation and resettlement of thousands of Congolese affected by previous conflicts in the area,” William Spindler, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in Geneva.
On 31 March, a group calling itself the Popular Front for Justice in the Congo (FPJC) attacked villages in the Ituri district between 50 and 80 kilometres south-east of Bunia, the administrative capital.
A few days later, on 2 April, the self-styled Revolutionary Front for Peace in the Ituri (FPRI) launched a counter attack in the area, UNHCR said.
According to the agency, in September 2008 FPJC splintered from the FPRI, a notorious group which has refused to participate in the peace process and has been blamed for major human rights violations in Ituri.
Many of the newly displaced include persons who were uprooted in raids mounted by the FRPI in 2006 in Ituri district and who were assisted to return to their homes by UNHCR in late 2006, Mr. Spindler said.
The eastern provinces of DRC have recently witnessed months of fierce fighting involving Government forces (FARDC) and various militia groups, displacing some 250,000 civilians, on top of 800,000 uprooted in earlier violence.
Last month, however, the Government and the National Congress for People’s Defence (CNDP), one of the main combatants in the fighting, signed a peace accord.
Meanwhile, DRC and Rwanda launched a joint military operation to root out the mainly Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) from the east. A similar endeavour is under way in Haut Uélé province by Congolese and Ugandan forces to end the threat of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in DRC.
Despite these efforts, in his latest report on the DRC, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls the situation in the east “fluid and volatile,” partly because of the multiplicity of armed groups, requiring continued international attention.