UNITED NATIONS, Tuesday
The number of people displaced by conflict and natural disaster in Central and East Africa is now more than 11 million, the United Nations has said.
The numbers have grown recently due to attacks on civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel fighters, and by ongoing hostilities in Somalia, the UN’s office for humanitarian affairs (OCHA) said.
Across 16 countries
The figure of 11 million totals the number of refugees and internally displaced people across 16 countries in Central and East Africa.
Sudan accounts for the largest proportion, with over 4 million displaced, while the DRC and Somalia both have more than 1.3 million displaced people each, the UN said.
Other countries with displaced people include Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
The countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees in the region are Chad, Kenya, Sudan and Tanzania, OCHA said.
Each country hosted more than 250,000 refugees at the end of March, it said.
Displacement in the region has been triggered mainly by inter-state conflicts and to a lesser extent, by natural disasters such as floods and droughts, the UN said.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Democratic Republic of Congo’s army today of widespread abuses against civilians that it said amounted to war crimes.
Congolese soldiers and the UN peacekeeping force MONUC have been conducting joint operations in eastern Congo targeting Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels including leaders of neighbouring Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
But New York-based HRW said local troops were committing atrocities in the area’s remote North Kivu province.
“The Congolese army is responsible for widespread and vicious abuses against its own people that amount to war crimes,” Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior researcher in HRW’s Africa Division, said in a statement.
“The government should take urgent action to end these abuses. A military operation that targets the very people the government claims to be protecting can only lead to disaster.”