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11,000 Congolese seek refuge in Angola over Kasai violence

11,000 Congolese seek refuge in Angola over Kasai violence

Democratic Republic Of Congo

Violence in the Kasai Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has forced over 11,000 refugees to seek safety in Angola.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Babar Baloch has said those who fled have since arrived in Dundo, the capital of the north-eastern Luanda Norte province.

“Refugees have reported fleeing attacks from militia groups, who are targeting police, military officials, and civilians who they believe are supporting or representing the government.

“After running away also from fighting between rebels and government forces, some refugees had to hide in the forest for several days before fleeing to Angola. Refugees are arriving in desperate conditions, without access to clean water, food or shelter,” the UNHCR spokesperson further confirmed.

Some parents have reportedly sent their children across the border, worrying they would be forcibly recruited by the militia if they had stayed in the DRC.

The recent riots can be traced to mid-2016 after a traditional leader belonging to a rebel group known as Kamwina Nsapu was killed in fighting with security forces. The violence escalated in 2017.

U.N. investigators have since discovered 17 mass grave sites, reportedly dug by Congolese soldiers, bringing the total to 40 in an area where the army has had run ins with the local militia.

According to UNHCR the new arrivals are terrified and still fear for their lives.

“The new arrivals are terrified and still fear for their lives and mentioned they do not have any immediate plans to return home. Some parents have reportedly sent their children across the border, worrying they would be forcibly recruited by the militia if they had stayed in the DRC,” Baloch added.

The government has previously denied that soldiers use maximum force against the militia.

According to the UNHCR, the brutal conflict in Kasai has led to more than one million civilians being displaced with more than 400 people killed in fighting since last August.

Consistent violence has ruined parts of the the DRC, a vast and resource-rich country in the Central Africa region.

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