The United Nations refugee agency on Tuesday warned that a humanitarian disaster of “extraordinary proportions,” is looming on the Tanganyika region in south-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and urged the Government to ensure protection of civilians.
“The violence spreading across Tanganyika, which is three times the size of Switzerland with a population of some three million, has now internally displaced over 630,000 people,” Andrej Mahecic, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said at the regular news briefing in Geneva, adding that this number is almost double the 370,000 who were displaced within Tanganyika in December 2016.
“People fleeing for their lives near the provincial capital Kalemie have shared stories of horrific violence during attacks against their villages, including killings, abductions and rape.”
According to UNHCR, fierce clashes between the Congolese armed forces and militias have continued since the end of January. At the same time, insecurity has increased due to violence by new armed groups and entrenched intercommunal conflict, fueling mass displacement.
The UNHCR official also called on the Congolese authorities to ensure the protection of the civilian population, to effectively follow-up any reports of crimes attributed to the armed forces and to put an end to the perception of impunity related to human rights abuses.
In the first two weeks of February alone, the UN agency’s partners have documented some 800 protection incidents.
Last year, more than 12,000 reports of human rights violations in Tanganyika and the nearby area of Pweto in the Haut Katanga province were documented, including violations to property rights, physical abuse, torture, murders, arbitrary arrests, forced labor, rape and forced marriages, a UN press release said.