Fish war prompts thousands to flee

Photo: UNHCR
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

and analysis from Africa

Link here

Sent from Kigali, Rwanda

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