More than 24,000 people have fled their homes in the past month due to renewed violence in Kasai in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the United Nations said Friday.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said violence in the south-central region forced 1.4 million to flee in 2017 — and it is concerned that renewed tensions could trigger another wave of mass displacement.
“Until recently, the region had experienced a relative period of uneasy calm,” UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told a press briefing in Geneva.
“But in the past month, more than 24,000 people have fled three separate conflicts related to land disputes, clashes over resources, and confrontations between different ethnic groups, authorities and militias.”
He said those newly displaced were reporting that “killings, rape, torture, looting and burning of homes” had taken place in recent weeks.
Baloch said that in Katende in central Kasai, clashes between two communities over mineral and timber resources had worsened throughout August.
The UNHCR has so far distributed plastic sheeting, blankets, soap and cooking kits to more than 4,000 people, while thousands more have received shelter kits and cash to buy food.
“UNHCR is calling for renewed focus on the Kasai to restore peace and defuse tensions,” said Baloch.
The agency is also concerned for the safety of some 16,000 Congolese expelled from Angola last year, who are now living in precarious conditions in near-inaccessible areas in the region.
The UNHCR is assessing road conditions should their situation deteriorate further and urgent humanitarian assistance is required.