Thousands Flee Attacks by Armed Groups in Eastern DRC

The U.N. refugee agency says a series of attacks by armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has forced nearly 20,000 civilians to flee for their lives.

More than 100 armed groups, such as the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces, have been terrorizing communities in the eastern DRC for decades.

On May 6, Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi launched a state of emergency in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Following that declaration, peoples’ hopes were raised that violence would end and law and order would be established in the region.

However, U.N. refugee agency spokesman Babar Baloch says armed groups are continuing to devastate civilian lives. He says there is little military presence in the area to protect people from the relentless attacks.

"Where civilians are on their own, then the armed groups get a chance to make a comeback and attack civilian lives," said Baloch. "And that is why they have been going from town to town, villages to villages killing people, burning their houses, looting the houses, injuring the people as well.

The UNHCR says the Allied Democratic Forces have allegedly killed at least 14 people and injured many others around the city of Beni since June 22. Last year, the ADF reportedly killed 500 civilians in eastern DRC.

Over the past two years, nearly two million people in North Kivu province alone have been uprooted by insecurity and violence, according to the U.N.

In the aftermath of the current crisis, Baloch says the UNHCR and partners are helping local authorities register forcibly displaced families and respond to their needs.

"More than 100,000 people were assisted with emergency shelters in 2020 and almost 14,000 so far in 2021," said Baloch. "But needs remain high as attacks by armed groups continue to displace people in the province, with many forced to flee multiple times.”

Baloch says women and children are particularly vulnerable and are being provided with shelter, relief items and cash. He says his agency’s resources are overstretched as the international community has not responded well to its appeal. He says UNHCR’s $205 million appeal to run its DRC operations this year is only 36 percent funded.

Source: Voice of America