A UNHCR boat on Oubangui River (file photo
KINSHASA, 5 November 2009 (IRIN) – At least 1
6,000 civilians have fled deadly clashes
in western Democratic Republic of Congo and
are now languishing, many without food or shelter,
in neighbouring Republic of Congo,
according to the UN and local officials.
"These villagers fled interethnic fighting [in Dungu,
Equateur Province] which has already claimed
47 lives and caused many injuries,"
said Francesca Fontanini, a spokeswoman
for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Equateur's police chief, Col Joly Limengo, told IRIN
that clashes had broken out last week
between members of the Lobala and
Boba communities over access to fishing ponds.
Those who fled are having problems with nutrition,
medical supplies and shelter, according
to Fontanini, citing the findings of an
inter-agency mission made up of officials
from UNHCR, other UN agencies,
the Interior Ministry and local NGOs.
"Villagers are still crossing [the Ubangi river]
to Republic of Congo. By yesterday [4 November],
more than 16,000 had done so.
Most did not take any provisions at all,
or only very few. They are housed in
municipal buildings or in the open.
There is either no health centre,
or insufficient medical supplies where
they are," she said.
Officials in Equateur Province said they
had initiated dialogue between
the warring inhabitants of the villages
of Iyele and Muzala.
Government spokesman Lambert Mende said
there was more to the unrest
than an old dispute about fish.
"It's an insurrection. A certain Edo Bokoto,
who has been suspended from his post
of sector chief, has mobilized about 10 men
from his community to wanted to take control
of these fish ponds which belong to people
from these villages. They started to attack
people from outside their community," he said,
adding that seven policemen who intervened
in the fighting had been killed.
Equateur is the home province of erstwhile rebel
leader and former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba,
now awaiting trial for alleged
war crimes at the International Criminal Court.
Source: IRIN • humanitarian news
Sent from Kigali, Rwanda