Come back home: DRC government

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has urged its citizens who recently fled inter-ethnic clashes in the western DRC province of Equateur and sought refuge in the Republic of Congo, to return home, saying calm has been restored in their villages.
“People must be able to [return] because we have arrested more than 100 insurgents who were spreading terror and killing people in Dongo,” government spokesman Lambert Mende said.

The government, he told IRIN, had stabilized the situation by deploying police in Dongo and surrounding villages where clashes between the Munzaya and Enyele ethnic groups recently left 47 people dead.

Seventy percent of the civilians who crossed the Ubangi River to enter ROC were women and children, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said. They fled clashes over farming and fishing rights in an area 300km north of Mbandaka, the capital of Equateur Province.

Their number has risen from an estimated 16 000 people, a week ago, to about 21 800, according to UHNCR and ROC government officials.
“The refugees have mostly stopped crossing the border amid reports that the DRC military had intervened in Dongo to stop attacks by armed Enyele, who appear to have organized into a militia,” UNHCR said in a statement.

Despite this, UNHCR staff in ROC could still see smoke from burning houses across the river on 9 November.

Most of the refugees were Munzaya and sheltering in villages between the districts of Betou and Impfondo in northern ROC. They said Enyele men had gone from house to house in Dongo, pillaging, raping and killing civilians.
“The refugees have expressed their wish not to be repatriated to the DRC for the moment, although their government said it had restored security,” Francesca Fontanini, a spokeswoman for the UNHCR, said.

Clashes in Dongo started in March.
 

IDPs too
 

“We are talking of [about] 22 000 refugees in ROC today, but there are nearly 30 000 villagers who are internally displaced in other villages in the DRC,” Fontanini told IRIN.
“Most live in public buildings which are like transit centres, where we have started the distribution of non-food items, tents and emergency medical care with the aid of a mobile clinic,” she added.

More than 20 of the refugees arrived in ROC with gunshot wounds. Nine of the severely injured were taken by UNHCR to Impfondo hospital. These included an 11- year-old girl whose right leg was amputated.

Mende said the government was doing everything to ensure the resumption of smooth, profitable fishing activities in Dongo. Earlier, officials in Equateur had said dialogue between the communities had been initiated.



More than 200 houses were burned in the March attack on the Munzaya, forcing at least 1200 people to flee across the Ubangi River into ROC.