'Tens of thousands' flee eastern Congo fighting

The United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday that tens of thousands of Congolese refugees crossed into Uganda Monday following renewed fighting between the Congolese army and renegade troops in the north-east of the vast country.

'Tens of thousands' flee eastern Congo fighting
The United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday that tens of thousands of Congolese refugees crossed into Uganda Monday following renewed fighting between the Congolese army and renegade troops in the north-east of the vast country.

A spokesman for the UN Mission in Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) in the provincial capital Goma said that exact figures of recent refugees were unavailable, but said that more than 220,000 people left their villages since January since the beginning of fighting in the Kivu region which borders Rwanda.

Those families had found refuge with host families in other locations, the spokesman said, but said the current wave of refugees may not have access to host families which already housing other refugees.

The Kampala office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement that 10,000 Congolese refugees from the Kivu region had fled to Uganda.

The refugees - mostly women and children - crossed at Bunagana border post, about 500 kilometres west of Kampala and were receiving relief assistance from the UN and other charities, UNHCR said.

"The displaced Congolese said they were fleeing fighting between the government army (FRDC) and the militia led by General Laurent Nkunda," UNHCR said.

Nkunda's forces which comprises mostly ethnic Tutsis, refused to integrate with the government forces and have been controlling much of the area in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that borders Uganda and Rwanda.

The dissident general is said to have the backing of Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated government. On Sunday he described the situation between his forces and those of the Congolese army in the east of the country as a "state of war."

Fighting has periodically broken out between his forces and government troops, forcing the civilians to flee across the borders.

District authorities and the UNHCR were monitoring the movement of the Congolese refugees, while making contingency plans for a mass influx of people, the refugee agency said.

In August, a similar number of Congolese refugees crossed into Uganda but returned home a few days later.

DPA
Last Mod: 04 Eylül 2007, 18:26
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