The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is calling for restoration of peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Greater Kasai region, as renewed violence threatens another mass movement of people.
Local authorities estimate 21,000 people have fled their homes since March 28. That is when land disputes between Luba and Kuba ethnic groups triggered renewed clashes, killing at least 13 people and injuring many more.
This resurgence of violence follows a relatively long period of calm. Babar Balloch, spokesman for the UNHCR, says U.N. officials fear this new outbreak could lead to another large-scale displacement if it is not quickly addressed.
“We are calling for a renewed focus on restoring peace and defusing tensions in Kasai to prevent another wave of mass displacement in the country. So, there have to be efforts in terms of negotiations and also bringing those two communities together but also restoring law and order in the Greater Kasai region as well,” Balloch said.
Intercommunal violence in 2017 displaced 1.4 million people inside the DRC and forced 35,000 to flee to neighboring Angola. Sporadic outbursts of violence have occurred since then.
Tensions between the two ethnic groups over mineral and timber resources have been rising since August and have displaced some 40,000 people.
As in the past, most of those fleeing the current crisis are women and children. The UNHCR says most have fled without any belongings and that people need shelter, food and medical care.
The agency is providing emergency supplies, including plastic tarpaulins for shelter, mosquito nets, jerry cans and kitchen sets, but says it needs more money for its work in the region. It has received just 12% of the $205 million it says it needs for DRC humanitarian operations this year.
Conflict and violence in the DRC have displaced 5.5 million people, the largest internally displaced population in Africa.