Thousands Flee Ethnic Violence, Sexual Abuse in DRC

People fleeing violence and rape from the DRC are entering Uganda in dozens

PARIS, France— Inter-ethnic violence and sexual abuse have reportedly caused more than 4,000 people from eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo fleeing Uganda over the past three days, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

The latest exodus from the DRC has pushed the number of refugees that have fled to Uganda this year to 57,000.

Babar Baloch, a United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman, said the majority of those fleeing, about 77 percent, are women and children.

“Some of them are arriving in traumatized conditions. As soon as they land, UNHCR has been trying to work with our partners to identify those who need our urgent assistance. But the scale of violence being reported of the increasing numbers is quite alarming and worrying,” Baloch said.

According to the UNHCR, the refugees are fleeing the DRC’s Ituri and North Kivu provinces, crossing into Uganda by boat across Lake Albert.

Baloch said, “Armed men are reported to be attacking villages, looting and burning down houses, indiscriminately killing civilian populations and kidnapping young men and boys. A growing number of reports indicate that the violence is taking on ethnic dimensions as tribal groups engage in retaliatory attacks.”

Baloch said they arrive with few or no belongings. Many of the refugees arriving across the borders in Uganda are exhausted, hungry, thirsty and sick. The crossed over with few or no belongings at all, according to the UNHCR’s spokesman.

The East African nation of Uganda is presently home to an estimated 1.4 million refugees from South Sudan where intra-trial conflict has been raging for the past years.

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Michael Harrington

Michael Harrington is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.

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