The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Friday said it was alarmed by the upsurge in violence in the Greater Kasai region of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has already displaced thousands of civilians.
According to local Congolese authorities, nearly 21,000 people, mainly women and children, have been displaced since March 28 by clashes between the Luba and Kuba ethnic groups in Bakwakenge town in Kasai.
A UNHCR press release quoted Babar Baloch, spokesperson for UNHCR, as saying “At least 13 people have also been reported killed, many injured and 190 houses set on fire.”
According to the UN agency, tensions between two communities have been on the rise since August 2020 due to land disputes.
Last year’s attacks and counterattacks displaced more than 13,000 families, or around 40,000 people.
The majority of the displaced have not been able to return home “for fear of reprisals”.
Kasai region is recovering from the 2017 violence that displaced 1.4 million people within the DRC and forced 35,000 people to take refuge in Angola.
In the face of this new resurgence of community tension, UNHCR calls for a renewed emphasis on restoring peace and defusing tension in Kasai to avoid another wave of massive displacement in the country.
Following this latest wave of violence, humanitarian agencies are visiting the affected areas to assess the situation.
Most of the displaced people have left everything behind, not having time to collect belongings.
According to the UNHCR, the displaced need shelter, food and access to medical services.
“The majority of them are hosted by local communities who are already struggling to cope with limited resources. Others are sleeping under the stars,” Baloch added.
On the ground, the UN agency is delivering emergency supplies, including plastic sheeting for shelters, mosquito nets, blankets, jerry cans and cooking utensils from the capital, Kinshasa.
But the needs are greater than the supplies to help 5,000 families.
The UN agency noted that more than five million people are displaced in DRC.