- The UN Refugee agency says the number of civilians fleeing tribal violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) into neighbouring Republic of Congo has topped 21,800 since last week.
Earlier this month, the clashes between two tribes in northern DRC erupted again, driving thousands of civilians out of their homes. Fighting first erupted in March between the Enyele and Munzaya tribes over disputes based on farming and fishing rights in the village of Dongo, in DRC’s Equateur province.
According to the agency, in the first round of clashes, over 200 houses were burned and more than 1,200 residents fled to Republic of Congo.
UNHCR said that last Wednesday’s clashes forced 21,800, mainly ethnic Munzaya women and children – from their homes into the northern Republic of Congo after initially estimating 16,000 refugees had crossed the border in fear.
“They told our staff they were fleeing Enyele tribesmen who, they said, had gone from house to house, pillaging, raping and killing,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.
Over the weekend, UNHCR began distributing blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, kitchen sets and jerry cans, reporting that more than 20 of the refugees arrived in Republic of Congo with gunshot wounds. The agency rushed nine of the severely injured to Impfondo hospital, including an 11-year-old girl who had her right leg amputated.
The agency spokesperson said refugees have mostly stopped crossing the border amid reports that the DRC military forcefully intervened in Dongo to stop attacks by armed Enyele, who appeared to have organized into a militia.
“In spite of this government action, on Monday our colleagues in the Republic of Congo could still see smoke from burning houses across the river,” he added.
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