In the eastern DRC Thursday, the death of a young woman has highlighted the dangers faced by thousands of displaced people in the Kibati camp near Goma, a place intended to provide refuge from fighting in the region.
David Nthengwe is a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. From Goma, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about how the 20-year-old woman was killed.
"Around about 1 am today, a soldier was trying to kidnap a…young girl. And then the girl screamed to alert the surrounding displaced people…neighbors. And then in the screaming a lot of people got hurt… Apparently the soldier ran away…he started firing and then a stray bullet apparently went and hit this young, unfortunate woman, who has died," he says.
Nthengwe says that she hadn't been in Kibati very long. "This woman, I did not know her personally, but she was one of the new arrivals that came into the came three weeks ago. And she's one of those that we assisted recently with food, with plastic sheeting, with everything that a person needs to save their life. Unfortunately, she gets killed in circumstances like this," he says.
He says that the Kibati camp is too close to the front lines of fighting between government troops and rebels. "At the same time, soldiers walk about the camp and this is the danger and this is the result that we get. It's a very sad day for us here," he says.
The camps for the internally displaced are supposed to be for civilians only. Nthengwe says, "We have maintained a kind of standard operation where we have actually asked the government to make sure that the soldiers are not in the camp…. We have always maintained that we need to maintain the civilian culture of these camps. Unfortunately, we have not seen much improvement in that direction. And today we have lost a very innocent woman."
There's growing pressure to move many of those in Kibati to a safer location. "As I speak to you right now, the new site that has been proposed for the transfer, for the voluntary transfer, of some of the displaced people at Kibati is under construction. We are working on the site. We have transit centers in place. We're about to set up a health clinic…so that these people can be transferred voluntarily. And precisely (because) of what has happened today, we are saying we need to transfer some of these people," he says.The new camp, called Mgunga Three, is near the existing camps Mgunga One and Two and is about 10 kilometers from Goma. Asked when Mgunga Three might open, the UNHCR spokesman says, "As soon as it is possible. And in fact, we have stepped up the speed to try and make sure that some facilities are in place and so we can begin to transfer." However, no exact date for the camp opening has been set