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Thousands more flee ongoing clashes in Kivu

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Photo: Gratien Ira/IRIN
Children are among the newly displaced civilians
KINSHASA, 24 May 2007 (IRIN) - At least 40 children are among thousands of newly displaced civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fleeing ongoing clashes between Congolese armed forces and Rwandan rebels, officials said.

"These newly displaced people come from the Ufamando group and the Gungu area," Kemal Saiki, spokesman for the United Nations Mission in Congo (MONUC) said on 23 May. The displaced civilians, including 1,382 families of about 6,010 people, had arrived in Minova and Bweremana areas of Masisi on the border between North and South Kivu.

Andrew Zadel, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in North Kivu, said the civilians were fleeing clashes between the Congolese army - Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) - and the Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR) rebels.

The FDLR comprises the remnants of the former Rwandan army and ethnic Hutu militia blamed for the 1994 genocide.

The families, Saiki said, had split into two groups and were living in areas that were very hard to access. The Rwandophone group had moved towards positions controlled by the FARDC in Numbi village, while members of the Batembo ethnic group had sought refuge near Ziralo village, which is controlled by the FDLR as well as Mai Mai former patriotic fighters, he added.

''Only Numbi is reachable by vehicle''
"Only Numbi is reachable by vehicle," said Saiki.

Zadel said the displaced civilians were not in a critical condition, having been welcomed upon arrival by host families. Their arrival, however, had contributed to an increase in the number of displaced people fleeing the fighting since January - of whom he estimated the total number in North Kivu at about 140,000.

Another small group lives in small camps mainly located in the Rutshuru territory near the Rwandan border.

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