DR Congo

UNHCR strongly condemns attacks on sites for internally displaced people in DR Congo's Ituri Province

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, strongly condemns a significant escalation of violence by armed groups on sites for internally displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) eastern Ituri Province in the past days.

In an attack on the evening of 9 May, armed men killed 15 people, including eight children between the ages of three and 16, at the Loda site in Djugu territory.

Five adults and five children also suffered injuries from gunshots and machetes as the perpetrators burned as many as thirty shelters. The site hosted some 8200 people before the attacks and nearly 6,000 from the site alone fled once again from the violence. A survivor of the attack, Mambo Suro Jacques, aged 51, recounted the harrowing experience to UNHCR partner staff:

“There was gunfire, my wife took one of our children but immediately fell upon the armed men. As she tried to turn around, she took the bullets in her side. My wife was killed with two of my children.”

As the death toll of displaced people in Ituri Province increases this year, the count of those injured and left traumatized by these attacks extends to many more with thousands at a time fleeing for safety.

“We are witnessing the action and effects of cyclical violence, committed by armed militia operating in the region, on an increasing and exhausting rate.
Households and lives are being torn apart, often time and again. When will this end?”, says Angèle Dikongué-Atangana, UNHCR Representative to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On Sunday, May 8, 2022, a day before the attack on Loda, an attack on the Blanquette-Plitu mining site in Djugu territory resulted in the deaths of 39 displaced people, including women and children, while some 19 others were injured by attackers. More than 20 homes were looted during the attack, and another 120 were burned. The incident also resulted in the forced displacement of more than 250 people.

The attack at Loda, has spread fear across the site at Plaine Savo, situated only 15km away. The Plaine Savo site itself was attacked in early February, resulting in 62 people being killed and thousands being displaced to the surrounding areas.

Civilians in the region, and people who have already been displaced, are being forced to leave their homes and villages to escape violence and attacks by armed groups, leaving behind their livelihoods and possessions to seek protection in places they consider safer. However, even in dedicated sites, displaced people remain at risk of attacks from these militias who operate across the loosely controlled territories of Ituri Province in competition for resources and control of the land.

Since the beginning of this year, UNHCR and partners have recorded reports of more than 10,000 human rights violations in the region, including killings, rapes, abductions, and lootings. The majority of these violations are targeting vulnerable displaced and returning populations, particularly women and children.

UNHCR repeats its call for all parties to respect the humanitarian and civilian character of settlements for displaced people and urges them to adhere to their obligations under international law to protect and safeguard civilian lives at all times.

ENDS

For more information, please reach out to:
Joel Smith, Communication Officer,
UNHCR Representation Kinshasa,
smith@unhcr.org,
Tel: +243 817 009 484
Simon Englebert Lubuku,
Snr Comm/PI Associate
UNHCR Representation
Kinshasa lubuku@unhcr.org
Tel: +243818801245