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DR Congo ethnic clashes leave 200,000 displaced

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Congolese people who crossed the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo arrive at the Nyakabande transit center to be registered as refugees in the village of Nyakabande in western Uganda on January 24, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

About 200,000 people have been displaced in ethnic clashes since mid-December in the northeastern Ituri province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a humanitarian source told AFP Tuesday.

Another humanitarian source said "on an average 800 people are arriving daily" in Bunia, the main city in the region, due to fighting between the Hema and Lendu communities.

Hema herders and Lendu farmers have been locked in violence in Ituri for decades, with tens of thousands killed from 1999 to 2003.

"Since mid-December about 200,000 people have been displaced in Ituri due to the violence," the first humanitarian source said.

The UN in Kampala meanwhile said over 22,000 refugees had fled to Uganda recently to escape violence has left several dead and villages torched.

Congolese people carry their belongings after they crossed the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo to be refugees at Nteko village in western Uganda on January 24, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

At least four refugees drowned while crossing the waters of Lake Albert between the two nations, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said.

"Last week, over 22,000 Congolese crossed Lake Albert to Uganda in three days, bringing the total number of people from the DRC arriving in the country to about 34,000 since the beginning of the year," UNHCR said Tuesday.

"The refugees use small canoes or overcrowded and rickety fishing boats, often carrying more than 250 people and taking up to 10 hours to cross."

"Refugees crossing to Uganda talk of growing attacks against civilian populations, as well as killings and destruction of private property," the UN statement read.

"UNHCR staff also received many reports of civilians being hacked to death and killed with arrows."

Ituri is part of DRC's deeply troubled eastern region that includes the restive North and South Kivu provinces, where militias hold sway over huge areas.

The latest violence comes amid uncertainty over the future of President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled since 2001.

(Source: AFP)

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