This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Aikaterini Kitidi – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
GENEVA, Switzerland, March 6, 2018 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, remains deeply concerned at the situation in the Kasai region of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where continuing instability poses a grave risk to civilian safety, including for several hundred refugees recently returned there from Angola.
Congolese government forces have regained control of large areas of the Kasai, nonetheless there is sporadic fighting between the armed forces and militia groups. Meanwhile, tensions remain high between different ethnic groups, threatening to plunge the region into new violence. UNHCR staff in Tshikapa, a city some 60 kilometres from the border with Angola, report that several internally displaced people, as well as those who have returned from Angola, have been unable to return to their communities because of inter-ethnic hostility.
In February, the tensions led to the internal displacement of over 11,000 people further north in the region, in Mweka Territory. These are in addition to the approximately 900,000 Congolese who have been internally displaced since the Kasai crisis erupted in 2016.
The Kasai conflict has also forced over 35,000 Congolese to seek refuge in Angola. Since September 2017 some of them have spontaneously returned to DRC – only to find that reaching their former homes is impossible. Many are today living in churches and mosques, while others were forced to move to different provinces.
Support for the returnees to rebuild their houses is often absent, as humanitarian funding does not at present allow for a major rebuilding programme. For 2018, UNHCR has requested US$ 368.7 million to help those affected by the DRC crisis. So far we have received just 1 per cent of this.
Among Congolese refugees in Angola, many say they are unwilling to return to their areas of origin at present, because of the fragile situation. UNHCR also believes that returns are not yet possible in a safe, dignified and sustainable manner, since peace and security are lacking.
UNHCR was therefore deeply concerned to learn a few days ago of the forced return of some 530 Congolese from Angola to the DRC between 25 and 27 February. Among them, 52 were registered refugees living in Dundo town close to the DRC border, and about 480 were unregistered refugees staying at the Cacanda reception centre in Dundo. The returns were carried out despite UNHCR’s requests to the Angolan authorities to undertake joint screening of the unregistered group.
UNHCR urges the Angolan authorities to refrain from further forcible returns of Congolese to their country. Should conditions change, UNHCR stands ready to assist the authorities in DRC and Angola in voluntary repatriation discussions.
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, March 4, 2018 – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Leila Zerrougui, remains gravely concerned by the violence in Djugu territory, Ituri province, that has resulted in the killing of dozens of people since January 2018.
The most recent attack occurred on 1 March 2018 in the village of Maze, in which at least 33 people have been killed.
“I am deeply shocked by this latest attack which has targeted civilians, and that the majority of the victims were women and children. I express my sincere condolences to the families of the victims and those affected by this horrifying act”, said the Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
“I condemn all kinds of violence and I call on the authorities to swiftly investigate this attack and to ensure that justice if fully served. The perpetrators of these acts must be held to account”, added Mrs. Zerrougui.
The burning of huts, forced displacement and sexual violence directed against women have also been reported in recent weeks in the Ituri province, located in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In support to the Congolese Government-led efforts to address the deterioration of the security situation, MONUSCO has reinforced its presence in the area with the deployment of three temporary military bases in Djugu, Blukwa and Fataki and increased patrolling in Djugu territory since 10 February 2018. The Mission is also engaging all communities and authorities to prevent future attacks and stabilize the situation in the region.