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DRC-UGANDA: Influx of IDPs to Uganda as clashes continue in North Kivu

KAMPALA, 22 October 2007 (IRIN) - An estimated 8,000 people fleeing violence in the North Kivu province of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have entered Uganda since 19 October, the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) said.

"The influx into Bunagana [a border post in southwestern Uganda's Kisoro district] started Friday [19 October] night as Congolese living in villages close to the Uganda border crossed into Uganda to escape clashes between government soldiers and troops allied to the renegade army general Laurent Nkunda," said Robertta Russo, spokeswoman for UNHCR in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

Fighting between Nkunda's forces and government troops in North Kivu has intensified since September. UN estimates say violence has forced at least 370,000 civilians in the region to flee their homes since December 2006.

Russo said most of the refugees arriving in Uganda were in "relatively good health", but some had bullet wounds. "They said they were caught in the crossfire as fighting raged around their homes early on Saturday [20 October] morning," she said, adding that more displaced people could arrive because fighting was still being reported in the Rutshuru area of North Kivu.

A small group of refugees went to Busanza, another border point about 15km north of Bunagana.

"A joint assessment team comprising government officials, Médecins Sans Frontières and UNHCR had travelled on Sunday [21 October] from Mbarara to Bunagana to verify information about the influx and prepare for the distribution of aid," Russo said.

The latest wave of displaced people included those fleeing clashes in areas around the town of Rutshuru, according to Louis Igneault, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Goma, the capital of North Kivu.

Some had sought shelter in Rutshuru, while others were scattered nearby or had been accommodated by families in the area.

A spokesman for the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC) said fighting had taken place between a faction of Mai Mai militia and Nkunda's fighters around Bunagana. Government forces had also clashed with Nkunda's militia in Bukina village, 90km north of Goma, Major Prem Kumar Tiwari said.

Reports said more people were fleeing the area on 22 October, although there had been no fighting since the previous day when government troops re-took control of villages previously seized by insurgents loyal to Nkunda.

"There is no more fighting in Bunagana and Djemba because we have repulsed the insurgents back to the mountains in the area," said Delphin Kahindi, the deputy commander of government forces in North Kivu.

Ugandan authorities in Bunagana on 22 October met some of the displaced and asked them to move away from the border area for their own safety. Many of the refugees were scattered around Bunagana town or sheltering with friends and families in the border town.

UNHCR and WFP on 22 October began distributing high-energy biscuits and basic household supplies to some 200 refugees at the transit centre. Water and sanitation facilities had also been prepared to cater for increasing numbers of refugees.

The latest influx of people from North Kivu into Uganda is the third in as many months. In August and September an estimated 30,000 people fled into Uganda to escape the violence. They however returned home several days later after fighting died down.

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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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