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At least 26 killed in inter-ethnic fighting in eastern DRC

KINSHASA Democratic Republic of Congo (Xinhua) -- At least 26 people were killed on Saturday in inter-ethnic fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to security sources on site.

The sources said the fighting involved members of the Hema and Lendu community in Ituri province, where a Hema village located a few kilometers from the city of Bunia was attacked.

Sources from the provincial government of Ituri also confirmed the incident, saying that some villagers were killed and several houses were burned during the attack.

Police and soldiers were dispatched to the spot to prevent the spread of violence, which followed days of tension between the two ethnic communities in the region.

The conflicts between Hema and Lendu have made it difficult for the two communities to coexist for several years in the province of Ituri. Between 2001 and 2006, at least 60,000 people died in clashes between the two in Ituri.



UN supports return of 15 South Sudanese ex-combatants living in DRC

JUBA South Sudan (Xinhua) -- At least 15 South Sudanese ex-combatants loyal to former first vice president Riek Machar arrived in Juba on Friday after a sojourn in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The former fighters arrived in the capital ahead of next week’s regional peace revitalization meeting aimed at restoring stability in the war-torn nation.

Agnes Oswaha, Director of Haman Rights, Gender, Child and Social Welfare in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received the 15 ex-combatants on behalf of the government.

She thanked the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) for facilitating the evacuation of the group to Juba.

“We are so delighted to receive our returnees that fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in July 2016 as conflict escalated,” said Oswaha.

She said her government will provide support needed to cater for the welfare of the ex-combatants as they wait to be integrated into the army and encourage warring factions to lay down arms.

“It is a sign of peace that demonstrates the government’s effort to restore hope and trust among people in the country, “Oswaha said.

Sadam Paru Manyang, team leader of the returning ex-combatant thanked the UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO) for feeding and clothing them throughout their stay in the camp.

“We are here today as citizens of this country because Juba belongs to all of us and we are ready to work for the stability and development of this nation,” Manyang said.

Florence Marchal, Spokesperson for the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) told Xinhua by email that the UN mission sponsored the 15 former rebel forces by plane from Goma to Juba and handed them over to the South Sudan government.

She revealed that the group was part of a larger group of opposition elements that have been hosted in MONUSCO camp in eastern part of DRC on humanitarian ground since August 2016.

Marchal disclosed that 350 opposition elements are still in the camp whereas around 280 have already left the country.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar led to fighting between mostly Dinka ethnic soldiers loyal to Kiir against Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was again violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital Juba forcing Machar to flee into exile.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions that have sought refuge in neighboring countries.


EU offers emergency aid funds for Congo refugees in Uganda

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- The European Union has announced a 100,000 Euros humanitarian funding towards Congolese refugees in Uganda.

“Following a recent influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) into Uganda, the European Commission has made an initial 100,000 Euros in humanitarian funding available for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC),” EU announced on Wednesday.

Emmanuel D. Gyezaho, the Press and Information Officer at EU in Uganda said the funding is part of the EU’s overall contribution to IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) and will allow the Uganda Red Cross Society to assist 6,000 newly arrived Congolese refugees from Djugu in Ituri province.

EU said majority of these refugees form Congo are reaching Uganda in rickety fishing boats across Lake Albert before being transferred to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement. “However, many of the fleeing Congolese are unable to pay for the journey across the lake. An estimated 65 percent of the refugees are children,” added the communication.

Since December 1 2017, 13,970 refugees have arrived from DRC’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces, bringing the total number of Congolese refugees in Uganda to over 242,000. The refugees reportedly fled a new cycle of intercommunal violence which saw armed groups killing, looting and torching houses.

“EU funding is being released to increase the safe water supply and improve sanitation, hygiene and health services. It is crucial that we provide dignified living conditions and prevent disease outbreaks,” said Isabelle D’Haudt, Head of Office for EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid in Kampala.

Old and new conflicts in DRC have driven an estimated 4.4 million Congolese from their homes. The vast majority, 3.9 million people, are internally displaced in DRC. The remaining half a million are refugees in neighbouring countries.


UNHCR alarmed by surge of violence in DRC

GENEVA (Xinhua) -- United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said Tuesday it was alarmed by a recent surge in violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that had driven large numbers of people to flee eastwards to neighboring Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda.

“Thousands of children, women and men have abandoned their homes, in the midst of intensified military operations against Mai Mai armed groups in South Kivu province,” said UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch at a UN briefing.

Since last week, almost 7,000 people have crossed to neighboring Burundi and an additional 1,200 to Tanzania.

It is believed that many more are displaced inside South Kivu in difficult conditions.

“Refugees we have spoken to say they fled forced recruitment, direct violence, and other abuses by armed groups. Others say they fled in anticipation of military operations and out of fear,” said Baloch.

The UNHCR spokesperson said it was imperative that people fleeing the violence were allowed safe passage, as well as humanitarian access.

Refugees seeking to reach Burundi are mainly crossing Lake Tanganyika on small fishing boats.

But reception conditions at Nyanza Lac and Rumonge where they arrive are sparse, with extremely limited shelter, drinking water, and food, said UNHCR.

Refugees are being transferred to already-crowded transit centers and camps in Burundi’s north and east.

UNHCR said was grateful to neighboring countries for hosting the DRC refugees, and urged them to keep their borders open to those fleeing conflict.


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