More than 72,000 people have been displaced as a result of fighting between the army and the M23 rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo during the past week, the United Nations reported on Friday.
The M23, a rebellion in eastern Congo that claims to serve the interests of ethnic Tutsis, is launching its strongest onslaught since a 2012-2013 uprising that seized broad swaths of the countryside.
Heavy fighting has occurred as close as 20 kilometres (12 miles) to the main city of Goma in eastern Congo, and the rebels briefly controlled the army’s largest facility in the region.
The United Nations Refugee Agency stated in a statement that around 7,000 of the 72,000 people who have left have entered Uganda. Others have travelled to Goma or taken refuge in sites designed to host families fleeing last year’s volcanic explosion.
Since 1996, when Rwanda and other neighbouring governments invaded in pursuit of Hutu militias who had participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Eastern Congo has been plagued by near-constant violence.
U.N. data indicate that the number of internally displaced people in the Congo is 5,6 million, the most in Africa. At least 1,9 million people reside in North Kivu, the area where the present violence is occurring.