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24 Jul 2009 12:48
Continued forced displacements in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have raised the total number of uprooted people there to 1,8-million, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
Since the beginning of the year, 536 000 people have been displaced in the South Kivu region as a result of clashes between government troops and Rwandan rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an ethnic Hutu group.
The government launched a military campaign on July 12 to disarm the rebels.
The UN also noted “reprisal attacks” on civilians, including internally displaced people (IDPs).
“There are widespread reports from IDPs of atrocities, including accusations of murder, rape and torture, on the part of the FDLR rebels,” UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond said in Geneva.
Redmond added that there were also accounts of arbitrary arrests, kidnappings and extortion by armed groups.
UNHCR evaluations showed that civilians fleeing the violence “need food, water, medical supplies and basic aid items”, said Redmond. His agency was trying to identify people with special needs, including victims of sexual violence.
Humanitarian aid groups like Médecins sans Frontières say rape is being used as a weapon against the civilian population in DRC.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also noted crimes against the civilian population similar to those reported by the UN.
A recent survey carried out for the ICRC found that: 76% of the country’s population have been affected in some way by the armed conflict; 58% have been displaced; 47% have lost a close relative; and 28 % know someone who has fallen victim to sexual violence.—Sapa-dpa
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