UN to transfer 60,000 displaced Congolese to new camps

November 14th, 2008 - 8:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Geneva, Nov 14 (DPA) Continuing fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has prompted the UN to make plans to transfer 60,000 displaced people to a new camp farther away from the front lines, officials said Friday.The new site is located about 15 km to the southwest of the existing camps. Most of the transferees will have to make their way on foot.

“The voluntary transfer will be complicated,” said Ron Redmond of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He added the transfer was expected to start next week.

“We hope to complete it very quickly, within a few days,” Redmond said.

The UNHCR will supply trucks for the displaced people’s limited belongings. The trucks will also be available to transport the elderly, children and the infirm. The transfer should be implemented with the help of UN troops already in the region.

Kibati, the site of the current camps, had been deemed too close to the fighting between the Congolese Army and the rebels. Officials expressed concern that those camps could be militarized. The new camp at Mugunga will encompass 26 hectares and be near existing refugee encampments.

The UN said the safety of people in the camps was the responsibility of the Congolese Army and the government.

Meanwhile, the UN warned that humanitarian access was being impeded by poor security in the area. It also expressed concerns about cholera outbreaks.

UN agencies and charities said they were continuing to distribute food, blankets and medical supplies to civilians in accessible areas.

Earlier this week, the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said that emergency aid was not reaching many of the tens of thousands of displaced civilians in the region.

Civilians have been caught in the crossfire of an offensive led by rebels loyal to Laurent Nkunda. Nkunda says he is fighting to protect members of the Tutsi tribe from Hutu militias who fled to DR Congo after the 1994 massacres in Rwanda, when 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. The fighting has also brought Nkunda’s forces into conflict with the Congolese Army.

The fighting has displaced a total of 250,000 people since late August, according to aid agencies’ estimates.

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