KINSHASA, 8 May 2007 (IRIN) - Fighting between forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo government and Rwandan rebels has displaced tens of thousands of villagers in the eastern DRC's North Kivu province since February, who were now being victimised by the military and other civilians, humanitarian sources said.
"The security situation is harsh for these displaced people as they are victims of grave human rights violations and are directly targeted in the fighting," said Jens Hesemann, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Goma, the capital of North Kivu, on Monday.
North Kivu has been the scene of most of the fighting between DRC's Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) and the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym, FDLR, which comprises the remnants of the former Rwandan army and ethnic Hutu militias blamed for the 1994 genocide.
"Displaced people are being subjected to looting every day by all the factions engaged in fighting - the Congolese army and the Rwandan rebels - and are victims of atrocities, including killings, robbery and other kinds of mistreatment by other civilians," said Hesemann, citing reports from a UNHCR monitoring team, which has collected testimonies from the displaced.
War-related abuses worsened in the first week of May when FARDC launched a major offensive against the FDLR, during which more than 40 rebels were killed.
"Civilians are complaining about the killing of their relatives by soldiers who accuse them, often without evidence, of being rebel accomplices," said Hesemann.
Some villages along the Kiwandja-Myamilima road have been abandoned after their residents fled the fighting, according to Delphin Kahindi, the deputy army commander in North Kivu.
About 60,000 of the estimated 123,000 displaced people had received food aid and other non-food relief items from humanitarian agencies, according to Andrew Zadel, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Goma.
"The situation is harder for the newly displaced people who have nothing," said Hesemann.
According to Major Gabriel de Brosses, spokesman for the UN Mission in Congo, fighting in the first week of May is estimated to have displaced an additional 500 people. Some of the displaced people remain in inaccessible areas.