18 December 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Insecurity Around Goma in Democratic Republic of the Congo Continues to Threaten IDPs

Photo: Nicholas Long
A camp for displaced people.

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This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at the press briefing, on 18 December 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The security situation at the Mugunga 3 camp for internally displaced people near Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to be a serious concern for us. Soldiers and unidentified armed men continue to be present in and around the camp, fuelling worries among the IDP population.

The presence of armed men at Mugunga 3 and other IDP sites around Goma is a threat to the civilian character of the camps, something we have repeatedly urged all sides to respect. In addition, it exposes IDPs to risks of violence in violation of their fundamental rights, including the right to physical safety and integrity.

UNHCR repeats its appeal for such sites to be kept strictly off limits for all armed groups and actors. Civilians must be kept out of harm's way and any deployment of armed men in densely populated areas should be avoided.

The most recent incident we are aware of was on December 14 when four armed men entered Mugunga 3 - apparently looking for aid items, including plastic sheeting, food and water. Two people were injured by gunfire.

On the night of 9-10 December, gunmen looted several homes around Mugunga 3 and demanded goods or money. Three people were also shot and wounded on this occasion. These incidents are in addition to those recorded during the night of 1-2 December, when armed men looted parts of Mugunga 3 camp and raped several women.

The wider security situation around Goma itself remains difficult, with government troops, M23 fighters and other armed groups still present close to the city. The tension is being stoked by uncertainty over the progress of current peace talks in Kampala, Uganda between the DRC Government and the M23.

Separately, fighting further north in eastern DRC has caused about 4000 people to flee across the border into South Sudan. The refugees crossed from Agorobo village over the past five days.

Most of the new arrivals are women with small infants and separated or unaccompanied children. UNHCR is prioritizing identification of the unaccompanied children to ensure that those most at risk, particularly adolescent boys, are protected.

UNHCR has provided new arrivals in South Sudan with aid, and we are working with the Sudanese authorities to move people to a more secure area away from the border within the next three to four days. Safe site locations are still being discussed and assessed, as concerns have been raised about the presence of landmines in the vicinity. UNHCR will support the transportation of individuals as soon as a site is identified.

Prior to the latest influx there were 18,408 DR Congolese refugees in South Sudan.

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