The United Nations refugee agency says thousands of people reportedly
are fleeing their homes in Democratic Republic of Congo's South Kivu
province. This follows last week's start of a joint Congolese-Rwandan
military operation against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of
Rwanda militia group in North Kivu.
The U.N. refugee agency calls
these latest reports alarming as it indicates the violence, which has
been rampant in North Kivu, now is spreading to the relatively stable
UNHCR spokesman, Ron Redmond, says the Mai Mai militia,
which is based in South Kivu, opposes the joint military operation in
North Kivu. As a consequence, he tells VOA, the Mai Mai have blocked a
"And this has actually cut off a main artery," said
Redmond. "In fact it is the only main road in this area and some 5,000 displaced people who live right in that immediate
vicinity have fled their homes and many of them are moving toward
Uvira, which is one of the main regional centers in South Kivu. So, it
is a concern that it is now spreading from North Kivu into South Kivu."
The UNHCR has a big office in Uvira and is present in Bukavu,
which is the capital of South Kivu. In recent years, the agency has
been receiving and helping Congolese refugees returning from years of
exile in Tanzania.
Redmond says the threat of this new conflict in South Kivu also may impede these returns.
operation continues as well," he said. "But, we fear that if this
standoff between the Mai Mai and the Congolese continues that it could
also disrupt the returns to the Makobola area, which is a major
destination for refugees coming back from Tanzania."
Redmond says the UNHCR hopes stability will return to South Kivu. But, he warns the situation is very fragile.
notes there are about 20 different armed groups in the region and many
of them form different alliances. In this case, he says the Mai Mai
are opposed to the Rwandan army and do not want its intrusion into the
He says this accounts for the standoff with the
Congolese army and for the increasing vulnerability of the civilian
population. He says fears are growing of further displacement.