Weekend rebel offensive drives thousands of refugees from DR of Congo into

As a result of an offensive mounted against other rebel groups in the area, the weekend assault by the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-Goma) drove more than 4,860 Congolese refugees from their homes in south Kivu, according the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The agency said that the desperate refugees swam across the Ruzizi River – pushing their belongings on rafts and herding their cattle through the crocodile-infested waters – to the village of Nyamintanga in the border commune of Buganda, about 35 kilometres north of the Burundian capital of Bujumbura. Eleven children drowned in the crossing, while a man was badly bitten by a hippopotamus and had to be treated in a Bujumbura hospital.The refugees told UNHCR officials that RCD-Goma had warned the inhabitants of three villages in south Kivu to leave their homes because it planned a large-scale operation against other rebel groups. The refugees said more than 400 of their houses had been burned to the ground, though it is not clear which group set fire to them. They also reported that 21 people were killed in the three Congolese villages – again it is unclear who was responsible.”This influx was not really a surprise,” said the agency’s representative in Burundi, Stefano Severe. “We are always prepared for more refugees from the DRC. Things have remained quite volatile in eastern DRC, and there had been rumours recently that there would be more of the usual abuse of the civilian population by different groups.” read more