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Three DRC solders killed while attacking Rwanda
position -  DRC accuses Rwanda of an 'incursion'

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Rwandan army on Thursday said three soldiers of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) were killed in a fire exchange when the latter attacked an army position in northern Rwandan district of Musanze.

This came after accusations by DR Congo on Wednesday that Rwandan soldiers launched an incursion into its territory.

Eugene Nkubito, commander of Rwanda Defense Force (RDF)’s Second Division, said the Armed Forces of DR Congo (FARDC) attacked an RDF position in Iterambere village, Shingiro Sector, on Tuesday around 7 a.m. local time, and three were killed before the attackers were repelled.

Nkubito made the case at a meeting in Musanze, which brought together experts from the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), a group of about 20 military experts from 11 member states grouped under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

Rwanda has appealed to the EJVM to investigate the motive behind the attack, Nkubito said.

On Wednesday, a DR Congo army spokesman said heavy fighting took place late Tuesday between the FARDC and “elements of the Rwandan army (RDF)” at the foot of Mount Nikeno in its province of North Kivu.

DR Congo also reported the incident to the ICGLR and “demanded unconditional withdrawal of Rwandan army from its soil.”

There have been border skirmishes between DR Congo and Rwanda over the years.

In 2014, Rwanda accused the FARDC of firing a rocket on its territory in Bugeshi Sector, Rubavu district, Western Province. The rocket did not cause any casualties.

In 2013, Rwanda said FARDC fired over 60 projectiles on Rwandan territory, killing and injuring civilians, including women and children. (Xinhua correspondents in Kigali, Rwanda, and Goma, DR Congo, contributed to this report.)



Congolese refugees perish on Lake Albert as growing numbers flee to Uganda: UNHCR

GENEVA (Xinhua) -- Refugees face perils crossing the lakes of Africa as well as at sea, the UN refugee agency UNHCR reported Tuesday in the wake of four Congolese refugees drowning as they sought safety in Uganda after their boat capsized on Lake Albert.

UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said at a UN media briefing that last week that more than 22,000 Congolese had crossed Lake Albert to Uganda, bringing the total number of arrivals to the country to about 34,000 since the beginning of the year.

“Even more lives could be lost on the often perilous lake routes, as increasing numbers of refugees escape inter-communal violence and conflict, across the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),” Baloch warned.

Over the past year, some 120,000 Congolese have fled to neighboring countries, joining the 510,000 refugees that were already in exile.

The refugees either use small canoes or overcrowded and rickety fishing boats, often carrying more than 250 people. The journey to cross the body of water can take up to ten hours.

Overloaded with luggage and fishing nets, the small canoe, which was carrying the four refugees who drowned on Feb. 11, had paddled for nearly two days when it was hit by high waves, causing the passengers to fall overboard.

Meanwhile, on Feb. 7, UNHCR partners recorded two more deaths on Lake Albert, where thousands of people are waiting to cross, some wrangling to get into the boats.

With attacks on villages in the DRC province of Ituri continuing over the weekend, UNHCR has called for increased humanitarian access to the area.

Refugees crossing to Uganda speak of growing attacks against civilian populations, as well as killings and the destruction of private property.

Separately, UNHCR said lake crossings through Lake Tanganyika towards Burundi and Tanzania declined significantly last week.

Some 8,000 people reached Burundi and 1,200 made it to Tanzania.

Army advances against the armed groups inside DRC, as well as a dwindling supply of readily available fishing boats and canoes, may have contributed to the drop in new arrivals, said Baloch.

However, UNHCR is afraid that flows could soon pick up again, given the unpredictable and volatile nature of the conflict.


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.


Over 3,000 asylum seekers from DR Congo flee to Burundi

BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- Over 3,000 asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) have arrived in Burundi to avoid fighting in eastern DR Congo, local authorities told Xinhua by phone on Thursday.

According to governors of Makamba and Rumonge provinces in southwestern Burundi, those asylum seekers arrived via Lake Tanganyika by boats.

“Since yesterday (Wednesday), we are receiving an influx of refugees from eastern DR Congo. By now, we have received over 2,000 refugees. And more and more are coming,” said Juvenal Bigirimana, governor of Rumonge province.

Bigirimana said those asylum seekers are mainly Congolese nationals and Burundian nationals, who fled fighting between Mai-Mai rebels and the Congolese army in DR Congo’s South Kivu province.

Bigirimana also said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the National Office in charge of the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (ONPRA) and the Rumonge administration are seeking ways to relocate those asylum seekers in refugee camps.

“We (The Rumonge administration) are trying our best to get food items for them as no charitable organization has so far assisted them,” Bigirimana said.

Makamba Governor Gad Niyukuri said that over 1,000 asylum seekers from DR Congo have arrived in the Nyanza-Lac district since Wednesday.

“Those refugees say they left so many others behind, and those are also fleeing the fighting. We have put them in one place,” said Niyukuri.

Niyukuri also said the provincial government fears that the refugees might have brought cholera here as one of them has already shown cholera symptoms.

Burundi has set four refugee camps to host DR Congo nationals.

According to the UN News Service, the inter-ethnic violence and clashes between the regular army, militia and armed groups have left some 1.3 million people displaced in eastern DR Congo’s provinces of Tanganyika and South Kivu.


UN General Assembly president warns against
sexual exploitation by peacekeepers

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- President of the UN General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak on Monday warned against sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers.

“Protectors must protect. They cannot rape. They cannot abuse. They cannot exploit,” Lajcak told the opening session of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations of the General Assembly. “If they do, they cannot get away with it. And, if they do, we must act.”

“We owe it (the pledge of action) to the people around the world. And we owe it to the rest of our peacekeepers, who work to uphold the United Nations’ values and principles.”

A series of steps have been taken, by both the United Nations and national governments, said Lajcak, adding that more measures are needed because zero tolerance must be reflected in actions—not words.

The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has received three new allegations of sexual exploitation involving military peacekeepers from South Africa, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday.

Those incidents allegedly took place in Sake, Beni and Goma in North Kivu province and involved adult victims, said Dujarric.

The United Nations has requested South Africa to dispatch investigators and to complete investigations within the reduced 90-day timeframe given the serious concerns raised by these allegations, said the spokesman.


UN mission in DRC receives new allegations of sexual exploitation

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has received four allegations of misconduct, including three allegations of sexual exploitation, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday.

Those allegations involve military peacekeepers from South Africa, said the spokesman.

The three allegations of sexual exploitation involve adult victims. Those incidents allegedly took place in Sake, Beni and Goma in North Kivu province, said Dujarric.

The UN Population Fund has been engaged to ensure that victims are provided with immediate assistance, he added.

The fourth allegation refers to physical violence inflicted by military peacekeepers on a 17-year-old boy in Eastern Kasai province, said the spokesman.

The victim was referred to the UN Children’s Fund for immediate assistance and his protection is being monitored by the UN’s Joint Human Rights Office, he said.

The UN mission will provide any additional assistance such as the collection of DNA samples, he said.

The United Nations has requested South Africa to dispatch investigators and to complete investigations within the reduced 90-day timeframe given the serious concerns raised by these allegations, said Dujarric.

The United Nations is gravely concerned over these allegations despite the efforts in partnership with member states to prevent and address sexual exploitation and abuse and misconduct, said the spokesman.


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