UN criticises shutting down of refugee camp in DR Congo

United Nations criticises Congolese government's move to shut down camp for internal refugees in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Thousands of internally displaced people queue for supplies at Kibati camp near Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

The United Nations said on Wednesday that it abhorred the shutting down of camps for internal displaced people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. It accuses Congolese authorities of dismissing thousands of vulnerable people in the region.

The head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the country, Rein Paulsen, said in a tweet that shutting down the camp in the eastern North Kivu region caused "4260 people (forced) to move".

"I regret the manner in which this dismantling was carried out and I am very concerned by the collective punishment imposed on these vulnerable displaced people," he said in a another statement.

The residents were "chased from their homes and the site was completely razed by the authorities," he added in the statement.

However stating it as a reason for the closing of the camp, Paulsen's office said the decision was taken a week after a firearm was found inside of the camp.

Berthe Zinga, coordinator of DR Congo’s National Commission of Refugees, told AFP that attempts by humanitarian organisations to keep the camp open have not been heard by Congolese authorities.

"We had pleaded... but unfortunately the camp was closed," said Zinga.

The spokesperson of regional authority have not yet released a statement about the shutting down of the camp.

But it is not the first time that a decision was made to close the camp for refugees by Congolose authorities.

Previously in December 2014, Congolese authorities closed a camp nearby Kiwanja, which hosted about 2,300 people, after finding six guns at the camp. They also announced their plans to close other refugee camps in the region for security reasons.

The UN demands Congolese government to respect "international humanitarian law" in the war-torn country which last September counted some 1.6 million displaced people, including nearly 600,000 in the eastern North Kivu region of Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Democratic Republic of Congo faced two wars which involved many countries and groups. These have been the deadliest wars after World War II. The long-time wars between 1996-2003, left at least 6 million dead (included death from disease and starvation), destroyed mineral-rich Zaire’s –former name of DR Congo- economy and social structure, which has affected the whole African Great Lakes region.

Particularly eastern regions of DR Congo, Goma and Kivu have been suffering from the deadly civil war between many armed groups and the Congolese government.

Recently, the United Nations announced that 7.5 million people need -nine percent of the population - humanitarian aid including basic needs such as food due to crisis that has been going on for decades.

TRTWorld and agencies