The United Nations has warned that an ongoing offensive against militants in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DCR) could displace some 370,000 people.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report on Thursday that around 200,000 people could be displaced in Beni territory and another 170,200 others in neighboring Lubero as a result of a massive military operation against militants in DRC’s territories near the Ugandan border.
Some 4.3 million have already been displaced as the battle goes on against an insurrection in the center of the country and persistent conflict in Congo’s eastern borderlands with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
The UN has described the displacement crisis in eastern Congo as the worst in Africa, warning that meager humanitarian resources could be further stretched as a result of a joint effort by Congo and Uganda to defeat the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
“The absence of protection measures for civilians in the most affected zones risks worsening. The risk of shells falling on civilian sites … cannot be excluded,” the UN report said.
More than 500,000 people have fled their homes in the past two years in Beni and Lubero, mainly due to recurrent attacks by the ADF, a main militant group that has been operating inside Congo since the 1990s. Some 1,000 people have also been killed since 2014 mostly by ADF forces although reports suggest Congolese soldiers have also been involved.
The DRC began the current offensive in the east in January after 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers were killed in an attack by the ADF on a UN base in December.