Call to resettle displaced civilians in northeast

Thousands of civilians who were forced to flee their homes several years ago after incursions into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by armed groups from southern Sudan, should be resettled, the administrator of Dungu territory in northeastern DRC has said.

"These people have not been able to return to their villages since 1999," Leandres Bwiulu said. "The worst is that a whole ethnic group among the Baka, whose villages were located in the region, are disappearing since the whole population has been roaming for years."

According to Bwiulu, about 5,800 families were displaced by the incursions, initially by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and later by the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The Baka ethnic community, he added, constituted 11 percent of the 252,000 people who live in the territory.

The SPLA incursions, which occurred before the groups signed a peace agreement with the Sudanese government in 2005, were intended to forcibly repatriate Sudanese rebels and refugees.

The LRA fled into DRC, where the group’s leader Joseph Kony had set up a base in Garamba National Park, after suffering heavy casualties from the Ugandan army.

"We are taking demands to the Congolese government to ensure the withdrawal of LRA fighters from the area. Some members of the Baka ethnic group who have constructed temporary villages along the Garamba National Park have been chased away from the area because the law does not authorise villages to be built near the park," Bwiulu added.

Humanitarian workers in Oriental province said the displaced people had suffered because of insecurity in the area.

"These displaced [people] have been forced to roam for years. The DRC armed forces, the United Nations Mission in DRC [MONUC] and even the guards of the park, are not in the area. It is now under the control of many groups such as the LRA and the Mbororo [an armed nomadic group] who poach in this area," said Liliane Ndeze Nshuti, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Kisangani, administrative centre of Oriental province.

The area is where MONUC Guatemalan troops were killed in 2006. According to Nshuti, some of the displaced people had now resorted to living with the inhabitants of other villages in the region.

Ei/re/mw