Renewed heavy fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu Province has pushed some 3,000 Congolese refugees into northern Rwanda where they are in need of humanitarian assistance, says a senior UN official.
“The situation is worsening since humanitarian volunteers are now overwhelmed by the influx of Congolese refugees who are arriving in Rwanda,” Neimah Warsame, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) representative in Rwanda, told reporters on 3 May.
According to Warsame, the refugee influx into the Nkamira transit camp, in the northwest, has prompted a multi-agency relief effort.
In a press release, the Rwandan Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs said that local administrative leaders, in collaboration with humanitarian volunteers, are screening the refugees arriving at Nkamira.
The refugees are fleeing fighting between the DRC army and troops loyal to the former Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) militia leader Gen. Bosco Ntaganda.
In a 3 May statement, the UN Security Council expressed serious concern over the recent attacks by armed groups in eastern DRC – in particular former elements of the CNDP under the leadership of Ntaganda – against the Congolese armed forces, and called for an immediate end to the rebellion.
The Council also expressed concern over the worsening security and humanitarian situation in the area, especially the increasing number of displaced persons and the outflow of refugees into neighbouring countries. It called “for all crimes, including crimes against women and children, to be expeditiously investigated and the need for all perpetrators of those crimes, in particular Ntaganda, to be brought to justice.”
Ntaganda has been indicted by the UN International Criminal Court for war crimes in the northeastern Ituri region by the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) militia whose former leader, Thomas Lubanga, was on 14 March found guilty of conscripting child soldiers by the Court. Ntaganda was Lubanga’s successor at the UPC.
At present, Rwanda is hosting some 53, 000 Congolese refugees and asylum seekers in camps in the Gihembe, Kiziba and Nyabiheke areas in the north and western regions.
“Most of those Congolese refugees have fled previous fighting in their country since 1996,” said Warsame.