DRC: Thousands reported newly displaced in North Kivu

Briefing Notes, 23 November 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 23 November 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

With recent fighting in and around Goma, UNHCR is extremely concerned about the situation of displaced people in Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province, especially children and other vulnerable groups.

Normally, UNHCR oversees 31 displaced camps in North Kivu, hosting 108,000 people. But the fighting has meant that we and our partners have not been able to access most of these. Only Mugunga III, just to the west of the provincial capital Goma, can be currently visited.

The stepped-up fighting between government forces and rebel M23 fighters that is being reported from the town of Sake, 20 kilometres west of Goma, is causing thousands of civilians to flee the area. Our protection monitors are reporting many incidents of violence affecting civilians.

In Goma, more than 60 incidents of assault on civilians have been reported by our partners. They say eight people have been killed, and houses and shops have been looted.

According to office of the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, 16 children were injured by gunfire during the fighting between the M23 and DR Congolese armed forces. Another 500 unaccompanied minors, who were receiving assistance in Goma before the city's takeover on Tuesday by the M23, are now newly displaced or refugees in Rwanda.

UNHCR once again appeals to all parties to the conflict to avoid actions that place civilians in harm's way.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that there are more than 1.6 million internally displaced people in North and South Kivu, including 285,000 newly displaced between July and September.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Kinshasa: Simplice Kpandji on mobile +243 81 833 1322
  • In Geneva: Leo Dobbs on mobile: +41 79 883 6347
  • Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile: +41 79 249 3483
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Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

Edwige Kpomako is a woman in a hurry; but her energy also helps the refugee from Central African Republic (CAR) to cope with the tragedy that forced her to flee to northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last year. Before violence returned to her country in 2012, the 25-year-old was studying for a Masters in American literature in Bangui, and looking forward to the future. "I started my thesis on the works of Arthur Miller, but because of the situation in CAR . . . ," she said, her voice trailing off. Instead, she had to rush to the DRC with a younger brother, but her fiancée and 10-year old son were killed in the inter-communal violence in CAR.

After crossing the Oubangui River to the DRC, Edwige was transferred to Mole, a camp housing more than 13,000 refugees. In a bid to move on with her life and keep busy, she started to help others, assume a leadership role and take part in communal activities, including the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. She heads the women's committee, is engaged in efforts to combat sexual violence, and acts as a liaison officer at the health centre. She also teaches and runs a small business selling face creams. "I discovered that I'm not weak," said Edwige, who remains optimistic. She is sure that her country will come out of its nightmare and rebuild, and that she will one day become a human rights lawyer helping refugees.

American photojournalist Brian Sokol took these photos.

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

Over the past month, almost 6,300 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have left the Batalimo camp in the troubled Central African Republic and returned voluntarily to their homes in Equateur province. Their decision to go back is a further sign of the gravity of the situation in Central African Republic, where escalated violence since December has left hundreds of thousands internally displaced and forced almost 350,000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The refugees at Batalimo were among some 20,000 Congolese who had fled to the Central African Republic to escape inter-ethnic conflict back home. The return operation from Batalimo had been postponed several times for security and logistical reasons, but on April 10 the first convoy headed across the Oubangui River. The last arrived in the DRC on May 10. The UN refugee agency organized transportation of the refugees from Batalimo to the Central African Republic riverside town of Zinga, where they boarded boats for the crossing to Batanga or Libenge in Equateur province. In Batanga, the returnees were registered, provided with documentation and given a cash grant to help them reintegrate. They were then transported to their villages, where they will be monitored. Photographer Leonora Baumann followed one group back to the DRC.

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2013 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented Sister Angélique Namaika of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the prestigious Nansen Refugee Award at a gala ceremony in Geneva on Monday night.

Sister Angélique, through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, has helped transform the lives of more than 2,000 women and girls who had been forced from their homes and abused by fighters of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) or other armed groups. Many of those she helps suffered abduction, forced labour, beatings, murder, rape or other human rights abuses.

The Roman Catholic nun helps survivors to heal by offering them the chance to learn a trade, start a small business or go to school. Testimonies from these women show the remarkable effect she has had on helping turn around their lives, with many affectionately calling her "mother."

The Award ceremony featured a keynote speech from best-selling author Paulo Coelho and musical performances by singer-songwriter Dido, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna and Grammy-nominated Malian musicians, Amadou and Mariam.

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The 2013 winner of UNHCR`s Nansen Refugee Award is Sister Angelique Namaika, who works in the remote north east region of Democratic Republic of the Congo with survivors of displacement and abuse by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). She has helped over 2000 displaced women and girls who have suffered the most awful kidnapping and abuse, to pick up the pieces of their lives and become re-accepted by their communities.
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