The UN refugee agency continues to relocate thousands of
people in the eastern DRC further away from the frontlines. The UNHCR says it's
moving those who have volunteered to leave two camps in Kibati, which have been
the frequent targets of violence and looting by members of armed groups,
including government soldiers.
David Nthengwe is a spokesman for the UNHCR. From
Goma, he gave VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua an update on
the relocation efforts.
"We have been able to move persons with specific
needs. They are referred to as disabled people…women, pregnant women, older
persons…also persons with chronic disease. And now were close to a thousand
persons of specific needs that we have transferred since the 28th of
November from Kibati camp to Mugunga One. Now today we have just moved 60
families, which is around 228 individuals, going to Mugunga One. However, space
in Mugunga One is now full. What we are doing now is trying to move the other
families to the new site (Mugunga Three) if and when we are sure it is ready
over the weekend," he says.
Nthengwe says the pace of relocation was slowed
because of shooting in the camp last Sunday. "There was shooting by the
(national) police in the camp…and two displaced people were wounded…. We have
instituted an investigation into the shooting. But late in the night there was
again shooting by suspected armed soldiers in the camp and…another three people
were wounded and taken to the hospital. We are told the soldiers were on a
looting spree," he says.
The UNHCR has received some good news about the
new Mugunga Three site – that more people than originally estimated could be
relocated there. "The new site has just been extended. The government, the
provincial operators here, have given us extra land space and now we have
(gone) from 65 hectares…(to) at least 105 hectares. Now, this is almost double
the space that we were given in the first place, meaning that we will almost
double to relocation of people to that place," he says.
There are currently 65,000 displaced people at
the Kibati camps and up to 50,000 are expected to be relocated. But the
relocation is voluntary and some may choose to remain in Kibati because their
homes and farms are in the area and wish to stay nearby. Asked what would
happen to those who refuse to move, Nthengwe says, "This is one of the $65
million questions. The reason being, that if there are any displaced people who
might wish not to transfer, this will require that we put in place extra
security measures for these people to be safe. But it's very difficult to
guarantee that any security measure would be able to protect them from any
danger coming from the fighting." Kibati is close to the frontlines between the
forces of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda and government troops.
The UNHCR spokesman says the other camps
for the displaced, west of Goma, are relative safe.