GENEVA — At least 35,000 people have been forced to flee recent fighting between government forces and Rwanda Hutu rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN refugee agency said Friday.
“These people have reportedly fled in the wake of the latest government military campaign code-named Kimia II, which began on 12 July in the Uvira territory of South Kivu,” said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UNHCR.
The government launched the campaign in a bid to force the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and their local militia allies to disarm.
Some of the displaced are hiding in forests and villages, others have sought shelter in schools, churches and other public buildings.
Redmond also highlighted the violence faced by the displaced.
“There are widespread reports from IDPs of atrocities including accusations of murder, rape and torture, on the part of FDLR rebels,” he said.
“Fleeing populations also report arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, extortion and forced taxation by FDLR and various armed groups backing the Rwandan Hutu rebels.”
The latest displacement brings the total number of civilians displaced in South Kivu since January to 536,000, added Redmond.
In the whole of eastern DR Congo, the number of displaced has reached over 1.8 million, said the UNHCR.