Fighting in Eastern Congo Pushes Refugees Into Rwanda

Catholic Relief Services
Thursday, 3 June 2004

More than 3,000 Congolese refugees have fled into the Rwandan border town of Cyangugu to escape the eruption of violence in Bukavu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where an insurgent faction of the Congolese army has taken over the city.

Since the fighting broke out just days ago, at least 2,136 refugees have been registered at a refugee camp in Cyangugu, in addition to an estimated 1,500 more who have chosen to stay with friends and family in the community due to security concerns. As of June 1, the DRC Red Cross reported a total of 39 deaths, including 18 civilians and 21 soldiers.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) sent an assessment team to the area, and is planning to provide rapid assistance with non-food items such as basins, buckets, casseroles, cups, blankets and soap to refugees at the camp as well as those staying with families.

Reports indicate that fighting ended in Bukavu on the morning of June 3, when the insurgents took control of the city. However, insecurity and some looting continues, keeping people in fear and in their homes. A transitional government has maintained a fragile peace in this area since it had been devastated by a five-year war that ended in 2003. UN peace keeping forces are also present in Bukavu, and negotiations are underway to establish a ceasefire and restore calm in the city.

CRS is concerned about the potential for the volatile situation to further destabilize the region and lead to greater humanitarian crises. CRS urges the international community and the UN to do everything in their power to call an end to the insurgency and the violence against civilians, and help restore Congolese sovereignty over the city of Bukavu. CRS also urges all parties in the conflict to fulfill and honor their previous agreements from the 1999 Lusaka Accord and the 2002 Global and Inclusive Accord.

CRS has worked in the DRC since 1960 and in Rwanda since 1963.

For more information, or to contact Catholic Relief Services, see their website at: www.catholicrelief.org

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