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DRC: Troop build-up in North Kivu worrying - UN official

NAIROBI, 2 October 2007 (IRIN) - Humanitarian workers are concerned that a build-up of Congolese troops in two areas of the embattled North Kivu Province could hinder access to civilians displaced by fighting, a UN official said on 2 October.

"While there is a slight reduction in tension in the province because the fighting has decreased, we are concerned that this may affect our access to the displaced," Eusebe Hounsokou, the representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), said.

Thousands of civilians in the province have been displaced since late August after fighting between the army and troops loyal to renegade Congolese army commander Gen Laurent Nkunda, who has said he is defending the rights of ethnic Tutsis in the region. The fighting has led to scores of deaths and the displacement of thousands of civilians.

Hounsokou said a 28-hectare site at Buhimba, 10km west of Goma, the provincial capital, was being prepared to accommodate at least 1,900 displaced families.

"We expect the site to be ready today or tomorrow. It will mainly cater for new arrivals and those who were already displaced but had settled elsewhere spontaneously," Hounsokou said. "The site's capacity is about 10,000 to 12,000 people."
Hounsokou said the troop build-up could be a military tactic to get Nkunda to accept re-integration into the army.

"The security build-up is there; it may be a way of telling the fighters to go for brassage [integration with other brigades in the army]; it could also be a tactic to build up the army's strength in the area," he added.

At the same time, Hounsokou said aid had reached most of the displaced persons (IDPs) in the province.

In a situation report dated 1 October, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-DRC) said a relative "appeasement of the security situation in the province, with only minor clashes reported over the past few days", had allowed the humanitarian community to continue accessing and providing aid to the vulnerable population.

"A new registration process, proposed by UNHCR, will be implemented in the next few days for all IDPs who settled in the sites west of Goma," OCHA said. "This registration will improve accuracy in figures for future distributions."

However, OCHA noted, a troop build-up by the Congolese army continues in the North Kivu areas of Masisi and Rutshuru.

"Significant FARDC [Forces Armées de la Republic Democratic du Congo] troop reinforcement has been reported since yesterday [30 September] in Katale [Masisi]," OCHA said.

The agency said minor exchanges of fire had been reported on 29 September and 30 September, respectively, in Kimoka area in Masisi and near Runyoni, close to the Ugandan border.

It added that 21 armed men, who were formerly loyal to Nkunda or members of Mayi-Mayi militia groups, had surrendered to the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC), to undergo brassage.

Quoting Médecins sans Frontières (MSF-Belgium), OCHA reported that about 1,050 families were displaced in Masisi town, and that the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Save the Children and MSF-Belgium had agreed to temporarily reallocate food rations already pre-positioned in Masisi town to assist these families.

OCHA also said the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) had reported nine suspected cases of cholera, with one death, in Bunaga region near the Ugandan border. The cases have been referred to a local health centre and the International Rescue Committee would "deploy operations in this area shortly".




Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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