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DRC Humanitarian Crisis Worsens as Rebel Attacks Rise

Raids by a Rwandan Hutu rebel group have made the humanitarian crisis in the eastern DRC even worse. The FDLR has launched frequent attacks ever since the Congolese and the Rwandan armies ended a joint offensive against the group in mid-February.

The latest towns and villages attacked or threatened include Luofo and Lubero, about 170 kilometers from Goma. The UNHCR says the insecurity is preventing emergency supplies from reach those in need.

UNHCR spokesman David Nthengwe in Goma says rebel raids on April 17th and 18th caused a lot of damage. Luofo was hit especially hard, with over 300 homes destroyed. The FDLR is now threatening to attack again.

"This is the tactic they've been using. Before they attacked Luofo village, the local authorities there told us that the rebel group actually had issued a threat to say they will be coming to attack. And within two days they did attack and seriously so. And…now they have issued another threat to say they will be attacking Luofo village again. And so this is very worrying because...the people will be going through what they've already been going through. They're already displaced. Their homes burned. They cannot access any form of assistance as of now. Their children are not in school. Their whole life situation has been destabilized," he says.

Asked if he knows where the displaced have fled, Nthengwe says, "The kind of displacement that we see now is that a lot of people are being displaced – probably in excess of 100,000 – but what is happening is they get attacked, they run away. And then two days later when calm returns they get back their villages. But in this situation where their homes are burned, they go back to burned houses or they're going back to destroyed houses. So the movement of the population once they're displaced is back and forth."

Also, rising tensions are reported between the local population and displaced people, who have made a makeshift camp in Kiwanja, near Rutshuru, about 80 kilometers from Goma. Nthengwe says, "On Wednesday, apparently, there was a meeting between the local civil society in the town and the residents to try and resolve certain disputes and misunderstandings over criminals that are reportedly in the site. After the local authorities had spoken to the group of residents, people thought that the matter had been resolved, only to see them marching towards the site where we have 11,000 displaced people. And they attacked the site and destroyed several huts."

Local police and UN troops intervened to end the violence.

"These are some of the indications of some tensions between displaced people coming from various ethnic groups. Because some of the IDPs (internally displaced people) have actually said they are not wanted in the area by the local residents. And this is worrying to UNHCR because intolerance of this nature has been part of what's been going on in eastern Congo for a long time now," he says.