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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
03 July 2006

DRC: Thousands flee army-militia showdown in Ituri

BUNIA, 3 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - Thousands of civilians have fled advancing militiamen who have now retaken the town of Tcheyi in the northeastern district of Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a United Nations local humanitarian official said on Monday.

"UN helicopters located a column of displaced people heading towards Geti, north of Tcheyi; and others heading to Bukiringi, about 12 km southeast of Tcheyi," Arsene Kirero, the liaison officer at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in Bunia, the main town in Ituri.

"We do not have the actual figures of the displaced as there are no humanitarian actors in the militia-occupied areas," he added.

To the west of Tcheyi, all of Nyankunde's 5,000 panic-stricken residents fled on Saturday to Marabo, 40 km south of Bunia, Kirero said. Most of the residents of Aveba also fled.

On Monday, the army spokesman in Ituri, Capt Olivier Mputu, said: "We have killed about 100 militias in Aveba although we have counted 12 dead and 33 wounded. Each time we attack the militias, they take away their dead; it is therefore difficult to get an exact count."

He said fighting was still raging in Songolo, a village northeast of Tcheyi.

The militias, thought to be members of the Forces nationalistes et intégrationnistes (FNI), took advantage of the country's independence day festivities on Friday to launch their attack on Tcheyi and Aveba.

On 22 June, OCHA had identified 938 people displaced by previous fighting in Tcheyi, 305 of whom are children; and another 6,788 people in Aveba, 100 km south of Bunia.

Ituri has remained volatile due to continued militia activity. The latest fighting continues as the country gears up towards the first democratic elections in 45 years, scheduled for 30 July.

In an effort to crush the militias and secure the district for the elections, the army recently appointed Gen Mbuayama Nsiona as the commander for Ituri.

At least 2,000 militiamen had surrendered by Friday, at the end of a government and UN ultimatum for the militias to disarm voluntarily and join a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme.


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