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UNHCR fears massive displacement in Democratic
Republic of the Congo if current violence escalates

GENEVA (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that it has fears about the escalation of violence in the northeastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where more than 300,000 people have been reportedly displaced since early June.

UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch said at a UN briefing here that the situation in Ituri Province has deteriorated since mid last week, with multiple attacks involving the Hema and Lendu groups.

Refugee camp in Ituri province, northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo | Coastweek

  "The UN Refugee Agency fears this escalation could engulf large parts of the province," said Baloch.

"We are gravely concerned for the safety of civilians after receiving reports of killings, kidnappings, maiming, and sexual violence being unleashed against people," the spokesperson added.

Inter-ethnic attacks between the two communities had already led to widespread displacement in late 2017 and early 2018, but the situation had calmed.

Large-scale displacement is now reported in three of Ituri’s five administrative territories: Djugu, Mahagi and Irumu.

"People are fleeing attacks and counter-attacks in Djugu Territory, with reports of both communities forming self-defense groups and being involved in revenge killings," said Baloch.

The estimates have been received from local sources in 125 locations. UNHCR and other humanitarian players do not have access to most of the affected areas at present.

ITURI Democratic Republic of the Congo (Xinhua) -- Recent photo shows people in a refugee camp in Ituri province, northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). At least 60 people have been killed in tribal clashes in Ituri province. XINHUA PHOTO - ALAIN UYAKANI
Military operations are currently reported to be underway in Djugu territory to bring the situation under control.

UNHCR said people are now sleeping in the open or public buildings, with the most significant concentration of displaced people being 10,000 sleeping in or near the church in Drodro, Djugu Territory, without any viable assistance.

Nearly 20,000 people have reached Ituri’s provincial capital, Bunia.

Many more are trying to get to the relative safety of sites near Bunia but are reportedly blocked by armed youths from both ethnic groups.

Others are trying to cross Lake Albert to Uganda.

Just south of Ituri, in North Kivu province, UNHCR has recently begun an emergency response for nearly 100,000 displaced people in Nobili, near the border with Uganda.

DRC has an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people, said UNHCR.


Equatorial Guinea’s president expresses continued
commitment in solving forced displacement

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The President of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who is the Champion of the African Union (AU) theme of the year on refugees, paid an official visit to refugee camps in Ethiopia late Tuesday.

Forced population movements caused by various factors is one of the major challenges facing Africa today, and members of the AU have been taking different measures to address the issue sustainably.

Cognizant of the problem, the AU has dedicated this year as the "AU Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa."

To show support for the theme of the year and as part of World Refugee Day activities, the President of Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday undertook a field visit to Tsore refugee camp in Benishangul Gumuz regional state of Ethiopia.

The visit highlights the situation in Ethiopia, which is hosting about a million of refugees who have fled conflict, drought and persecution from neighboring countries such as South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia.

Visiting one of the refugee camps in Benishangul Gumuz region, Tsore Refugee Camp, the President of Equatorial Guinea expressed commitment to continue exerting efforts in searching durable solution against insensitive situation that can lead to forced displacement on the African continent.

"My presence in this refugee camp further reinforces my conviction that we must find together against the root cause of the increase in number of refugees and internally displaced persons in Africa," he underlined.

Ethiopia has adopted a law granting refugees the right to work and live outside the camps, and the AU has lauded it as a step toward improving their dignity and reducing their dependence on international aid.



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