George Okoth-Obbo, the number two official at the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), said food and clothing was needed for the 1.4 million in Kasai who have fled their homes in violence that has killed more than 3,000 people.
“Immediate protection” was required, he told AFP on the last day of a three-day visit to the country, in particular for children “who are sleeping in conditions that are difficult to imagine”.
In the southeastern province of Tanganyika, clashes between Bantus and Pygmies have also forced thousands to flee, as has the long-running violence in the Kivu region, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council, an NGO.
In Kasai, violence erupted last September after the death of a tribal chieftain, known as the Kamwina Nsapu, who rebelled against the authority of President Joseph Kabila’s regime in Kinshasa and its local representatives.
The killing sparked violence that has escalated, including alleged violations of human rights such as extrajudicial killings, rapes, torture and the use of child soldiers.
In addition, about 33,000 Congolese have fled Kasai for Angola, and “the conditions today in Kasai are such that we cannot encourage or promote the return of refugees,” Okoth-Obbo said.
At the same time, the country is also having to cope with the arrival of about 500,000 refugees fleeing fighting in Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic — where about 60,000 people have fled to DR Congo this year, he said.