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Congolese Target of Hutu Rebel Attacks

Increased violence against civilians in the eastern DRC has caused thousands more people to flee their towns and villages. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says Hutu rebels are killing civilians and raping women in North Kivu Province. The rebels fled to DRC, then Zaire, following the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

UNHCR spokesman David Nthengwe, who's in Goma, Goma, talks about the attacks by the FDLR rebel group.

"The Rwandan government and the DRC government launched a military offensive against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, FDLR, around the 20th of January… And the FDLR now, it would appear…are turning their wrath…against the civilian populations. And of late, we have received reports, we have even gone there to verify some of these reports, (that) villages around Masisi…Lubero and…Walikale have suffered, what appear to be, reprisal attacks by the FDLR. This is causing new displacement," he says.

UNHCR has been unable to come up with an exact figure for those who've been displaced by the FDLR attacks. But it's known at least 3,000 have been displaced from one village alone, about 20 kilometers south of Masisi. UNHCR estimates that as a result of fighting in North Kivu in recent years at least one million people have been displaced in the province.

Nthengwe says that various UN agencies have sent joint teams to the areas of rebel attacks to try to locate the displaced and assess their needs.

A similar situation is taking place in the northeastern Orientale Province, where civilians have been repeatedly attacked by Lord's resistance Army (LRA) rebels from Uganda. Many Congolese have tried to escape those attacks by crossing the border in south Sudan.