The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is deeply concerned about renewed fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo between government troops and fighters of the M23 rebel movement.
The fresh combat erupted early on Tuesday between government troops and fighters of the M23 movement in DRC’s troubled North Kivu province. The two sides first clashed in April last year and subsequent waves of fighting have led to the internal displacement of tens of thousands of people, while more than 60,000 have sought shelter in Uganda and Rwanda.
This is the first major fighting between the two sides since the M23 captured the North Kivu capital, Goma, last November before withdrawing and entering into peace talks in Uganda with the government. These have achieved little.
UNHCR is particularly concerned for the safety of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) in camps around Goma. Tuesday, shelling was reported close to the Mugunga III camp for IDPs, causing panic among the more than 13,000 inhabitants, mostly women and children. Six local people living near the camp were injured during the attacks.
Mugunga III has been emptying, with the IDPs fleeing from Mugunga and heading towards Goma, some 15 kilometres to the east. Others are heading northwards to Sake, 10 kms away from the camp. Local residents are also reported to be fleeing from the Mugunga area.
UNHCR is calling on all the parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of all civilians, including displaced people.
“The principle of distinguishing between military targets and the civilian population must be respected,? said Kouassi Etien, UNHCR?s head of office in Goma.
According to UN estimates, there are more than 2.5 million forcibly displaced people in the DR Congo, including some 900,000 people in North Kivu.
Photo: Congolese children play outside a crude shelter in Mugunga III camp. People started fleeing the camp after artillery fire landed nearby. ? UNHCR/F.Noy
FNs h?ykommiss?r for flyktninger UNHCR, gir beskyttelse og bistand til millioner av flyktninger over hele verden, upartisk og uavhengig av etnisk bakgrunn, religion, politiske standpunkter og kj?nn. www.unhcr.no 0000