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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Monday 31 May 2004

DRC-RWANDA: Bukavu crisis task force set up

CYANGUGU (RWANDA), 31 May 2004 (IRIN) - The UN Relief/Humanitarian Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Herbert M'Cleod, has set up an inter-agency Crisis Task Force for the eastern town of Bukavu where fighting between rival factions of the Congolese army erupted on Wednesday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported.

"The task force will interface with the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] and will undertake an evaluation of the humanitarian needs in Bukavu as soon as security permits safe and unhindered access," OCHA said in a report of the current situation in the town.

The task force comprises OCHA, Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator, the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) and one representative of NGOs.

OCHA said Bukavu's immediate needs were that civilians be protected, that electricity and water supplies be restored, and that corpses get collected before they pose a health hazard.

Thousands of civilians displaced in the fighting have fled into the Rwandan province of Cyangugu, on the border with the DRC, with many saying they fear to return to their homes.

A field officer with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cyangugu, Jeremy Nsengiyumva, told IRIN on Monday that up to 2,500 people had fled into Rwanda since the fighting broke out.

Some of the refugees, mainly the Tutsi-speaking Banyamulenge Congolese, told IRIN the situation in Bukavu remained tense and that the fighting was likely to continue.

"There's a lot of mistrust between the different ethnic groups in Bukavu," Wellars Nzabona, a Congolese shop owner who fled into Rwanda, told IRIN. "There have been house-to-house searches for the Banyamulenge with the intention of finishing us."

The Banyamulenge have the same ethnic origins as Rwanda's minority Tutsis. Many Banyamulenge speak Tutsi and some Congolese do not consider them as nationals of the DRC.

According to the displaced Bukavu residents, people desperate to flee the town have sought refuge in the bush while they plan their escape but many more are stuck in their homes.

Officials of aid agencies, whose staff pulled out Bukavu at the weekend at the height of the fighting, said there had been reports of the army factions killing some villagers who attempted to flee.

Those who fled into Rwanda safely are grouped on a hilltop, allocated to them by the UNHCR, where tents have been pitched to protect them from the cold. So far, up to 703 refugees have started receiving food aid and non-food items.

However, many more of the displaced have sought refuge with their relatives in Rwanda, Nsengiyumva said on Monday.

"We are trying to sensitise them to come to the camp where we will be able to assist them," he said. "We have all the necessary logistics to deal with the situations, and at the moment everything is under control."


This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004

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