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Katanga's forgotten strife displacing thousands

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KINSHASA, 3 Aug 2005 (IRIN) - Violence in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) Katanga Province has been displacing thousands of civilians, according to local media and two international NGOs.

"More than 15,000 displaced people have arrived in [the village] of Mukubu since May," said Loick Barriquand, the programme manager for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) that has a new primary health care project in the village.

On Monday he said that fighting there was between the regular army and local Mayi-Mayi militiamen.

"The population is the victim of violence being committed by both parties," he said.

The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) does not have any troops in north or central Katanga, the MONUC military spokesman, Lt Col Thierry Provendier, told IRIN on Thursday.

"We do not have enough troops to deploy in the entire country," he said.

Provendier said MONUC was aware of the reports of recent fighting in the area but it had not yet been able to send a mission to verify them.

Out of the spotlight

Humanitarian workers in Katanga have said that the fighting in the area has attracted little national or international attention.

"Everyone thinks the fighting has finished in north Katanga but it's not over," Barriquand said.

"Even some leaders in [Katanga's regional capital] Lubumbashi say they don't know what is going on in the north [of the province]," he added.

Reports of the attacks are incomplete. Barriquand said MSF happened to go to the village of Sonja near the town of Ankoro about a month ago and it had been burned.

"Almost all the women there had been raped," he said.

Juvenal Lungange, the head of emergencies for Caritas, another NGO operating in Katanga, said on Friday that homes were burned and civilian property looted in an attack on 24 July on Mitwaba, the main settlement in a territory bearing the same name.

"In the village of Kialwe, 5,601 people fled towards the villages of Bunkeya and Sanke, near the Upemba [National] Park, and are without humanitarian aid," he said.

Lungange said that in April 10,000 people had been displaced by fighting between the army and Mayi-Mayi in Mitwaba Territory since, and another 10,000 had been displaced in the village of Kialwe, some 80 km from Mitwaba settlement.

Government radio reported on Wednesday that another village, Kikwiba, had been under attack since 21 July. An escapee confirmed the fighting was between Mayi-Mayi and the army

UN sponsored Radio Okapi reported on Wednesday that a Mayi-Mayi militia in Upemba Park was now roaming from village-to-village in Mitwaba Territory pillaging and killing civilians.

Opaki quoted a local official named Pierre Sikwe who said the Mayi-Mayi came to the village of Mufule on 5 July and killed the head of the local school. He said another village, Mukana, has been completely burned down while the villages of Kialwe and Mumbolo have been partially destroyed.


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