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Transfer Of Displaced Congolese To Safer Locations

Transfer Of Displaced Congolese To Safer Locations To Begin Soon, Says UN

New York, Nov 25 2008 4:10PM

The United Nations refugee agency is set to begin moving Congolese civilians displaced by the recent fighting in the east of the strife-torn nation from the camps in which they were staying to more secure locations away from the violence.

The internally displaced persons (IDPs) will be transferred from the Kibati camps to four camps on the outskirts of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu and the scene of some of the most intense clashes between Government forces (FARDC) and the rebel movement known as the Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP).

No major security incidents in eastern DRC or elsewhere in the country were reported by the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), known as MONUC . The mission also reported that the region around Goma remains tense, and UN peacekeepers continue daily and nightly patrols of strategic areas.

The recent violence has uprooted an estimated 250,000 people in the past three months. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has voiced its growing concern for the safety of nearly 70,000 IDPs taking shelter in camps outside Goma.

Last week a 20-year-old woman was shot and killed at one of the Kibati camps, and several families were forced to flee their huts, which were then looted by armed men.

Tens of thousands of displaced Congolese civilians in the Kibati camps are in a dangerous situation as the warring parties remain in close proximity, according to UNHCR .

“We fear that the civilian population, already in a dramatic and desperate humanitarian situation, could be caught in the crossfire should the fighting resume in the area,” William Spindler, a spokesperson for the agency, told reporters in Geneva.

The voluntary relocation drive could affect as many as 30,000 people and will focus on vulnerable persons, children, the sick and the elderly. They will be relocated to camps where shelter and sanitation and other services are already available.

Mr. Spindler noted that MONUC personnel will be positioned along the 15-kilometre bypass to the new site to ensure security. He also welcomed yesterday’s decision by MONUC to start, as soon as possible, regular night patrols in and around the Kibati camps, following last week’s shooting.

“MONUC’s decision will increase the security of the displaced Congolese civilians sheltered there and will help to restore the civilian character of the site,” he stated. “We also hope that this move will help combat the rising number of sexual assaults and raids by armed men, extortion and looting by soldiers.”

UNHCR is also preparing 5,000 kits for emergency distribution to the 65,000 IDPs currently sheltered at Kibati. These family kits include a kitchen set, blankets, sleeping mats, jerry cans, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets and a bag for carrying these items. Each kit is for a family of five, so the kits will benefit a total of 25,000 people.

Yesterday the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the eastern DRC, Olusegun Obasanjo, told reporters in New York that he will be returning to the region this weekend to resume talks with the Congolese Government, the CNDP and other key actors.

Mr. Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, is expected to visit the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, on Saturday and Goma on Sunday, with other regional stops along the way.

ENDS

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