A new report released by aid agency Oxfam International has put the estimated number of displaced persons due to conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at 250,000 since the beginning of the year.
Oxfam reports that these people have been displaced since mid-January – at the conclusion of the Rwanda - DRC joint military campaign in the volatile east to rout out the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an outfit accused of orchestrating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, among other crimes.
The renegade force launched reprisal attacks on the Congolese population, killing and displacing many.
The historic joint campaign repatriated thousands of combatants and their dependants respectively before its end in mid-February; but the remaining rebels thereafter have continued to cause havoc in the region.
“Some 250,000 people in the provinces of North and South Kivu have been displaced since mid-January following a military operation targeting the FDLR rebel group,” states part of the Oxfam update.
The FDLR are accused by the DRC of committing atrocities in the vast country’s east over the last 15 years.
DRC Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, while in Kigali last December, shortly before the joint Rwanda-DRC military offensive (operation Umoja Wetu) was launched, labeled the FDLR a cancer bequeathed to his country by the international community.
Oxfam which notes that its new humanitarian assistance – providing basic water and sanitation – in the region, targets an additional 150,000 people and also projects that it will soon be assisting up to 650,000.
Meanwhile, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the DRC – MONUC, and the Congolese military – FARDC, are reported to be strengthening joint operations against the FDLR in South Kivu.
It is estimated that, since 1998, 5.4 million people have lost their lives in the DRC, in the deadliest conflict since the Second World War.