The United Nations fears that the refugee crisis in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could worsen after the escalation of the conflict between government troops and soldiers loyal to a dissident general.
Speaking to the BBC on Thursday, UN emergency relief coordinator John Holmes said that although the fighting was confined to the North Kivu region on the border with Rwanda and Uganda, the crisis could aggravate the situation throughout the country.
Holmes is on a four-day trip through the conflict-ridden area to get an overview of the situation.
Sporadic fighting in the Kivu region between the government troops (FRDC) and a militia led by General Laurent Nkunda has recently intensified.
Nkunda’s forces, which comprise mostly ethnic Tutsis, refused to integrate with the government forces and have been controlling much of the Kivu area.
The dissident general is said to have the backing of Rwanda’s Tutsi-dominated government. On Sunday he described the situation between his forces and those of the Congolese army as a ”state of war”. According to UN estimates, over 200 000 people have left their villages since January.
”If the fighting gets worse, what we fear is a wave of displacement and possibly the kind of atrocities that have gone with that in the past,” Holmes said. — Sapa-dpa