Emergency food supplies are running out for more than 100 000 refugees from a conflict in northern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to local World Food Programme workers.
A larger-than-expected 107 000 Congolese have over the past four months fled fighting in the northern province Equateur, seeking refuge in camps set up across the border in a remote part of neighbouring Congo Republic.
“The food depots are empty… (We have) almost 60 tonnes for a monthly need of 1800-1900 tonnes per month,” said Emmanuel Twagirumukiza, World Food Programme officer in the town of Impfondo, one of two main refugee centres.
Twagirumukiza said the next supplies were not expected until early March when around 800 tonnes of food from the European Union’s aid arm was due.
The conflict in Equateur is not linked to the violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has escalated from its origin as a fight over fishing rights between local communities. Congolese troops were deployed last November after 47 police were killed in the fighting.
A number of shadowy groups have posted statements on the Internet saying they were launching a rebellion from Equateur against President Joseph Kabila’s government in Kinshasa.
Equateur was the home province of the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. It also spawned a rebellion by Jean-Pierre Bemba, who fought against the Kinshasa government during the 1998-2003 war.
But, with Bemba in prison at the International Criminal Court and Congo at peace with its traditional foes Rwanda and Uganda, analysts are playing down the scale of the uprising in Equateur, which was focused on the town of Dongo.
Pic: World Food Programme plane