DRC: Thousands flee clashes between army and Rwandan rebels
The civilians fled after violence erupted between the national army and a Rwandan Hutu rebel group
KINSHASA, 14 March 2007 (IRIN) - An estimated 10,000 civilians have fled the village of Burumba in North Kivu province in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after violence erupted between the national army and a Rwandan Hutu rebel group, officials said on Tuesday.
The displaced people had sought refuge in the neighbouring village of Nyamilima after the clashes, which erupted on Saturday between DRC government forces and rebels of the Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR), some of whose members have been in eastern Congo since 1994 and stand accused of masterminding the genocide in their country.
"Our patrols arrived in the area on Saturday and Sunday but found an empty village whose inhabitants had fled towards the village of Nyamilima," Major Ajay Dalal, spokesman for the United Nations Mission in DRC (MONUC), told IRIN by telephone from Goma, the capital of North Kivu.
Relief workers had by late afternoon on Tuesday not been able to approach Nyamilima to help the displaced because of the prevailing insecurity, according to Andrew Zadel, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in North Kivu.
Some displaced had sought shelter in schools and churches while others had been accommodated by families in Nyamilima, according to MONUC-run Radio Okapi.
A joint reconnaissance team comprising DRC army officers and MONUC's human rights officials was due to travel to the affected area on Wednesday, said Col Delphin Kahindi, the military commander in charge of the area.
Clashes erupted on Saturday when the FDLR ambushed an army brigade, sparking an exchange of gun fire. Fighting escalated on Sunday, forcing the villages to flee, according to Kahindi.
"A definitive casualty figure is not available, but we have been told that a soldier was killed and several others wounded," said Kahindi, adding that the FDLR is reported to have suffered nine casualties.
Some of the affected villagers said on Radio Okapi that civilian casualties included women and children. The dead included those who had decided to remain in their homes or who had attempted to retrieve some of their property from their houses.