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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Wednesday 24 March 2004

DRC: 6,000 IDPs ready to leave Bunia camps to return home

KINSHASA, 24 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - At least 6,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps around Bunia, the main town of Ituri District in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), are preparing to return to their villages of origin, Hamadoun Toure, the spokesman for the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) said on Wednesday.

"This return is a sign of the positive evolution of the security situation in Ituri," he said at a news conference in the nation's capital, Kinshasa. "These civilians are tangible proof of progress that has been made in Ituri."

Many of these people had fled areas such as Fataki and Tchomia following repeated massacres committed by various armed groups operating in the region. A total of about 10,000 IDPs are still living in camps around the Bunia airport.

With the aid of humanitarian agencies, the IDPs were able to build a temporary school in the camp, and a health centre was established.

Fighting among militias has particularly affected the northeast of the country since 1999, with the most violent hostilities occurring from April to June 2003, resulting in massive displacement of civilian populations.

Since the end of July 2003, MONUC has deployed close to 7,000 soldiers in the region with a mandate to protect civilians, to disarm the militias and to ensure an embargo on the importation and circulation of arms.

Recent years of fighting in Ituri resulted in the deaths of some 50,000 people, while some 500,000 others were displaced.


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