More than 20,000 civilians fled fighting in the past week between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s army and Ugandan rebels in Congo’s North Kivu province, the United Nations said.
Congo’s army is pursuing the Allied Democratic Forces- National Army for the Liberation of Uganda, or ADF-NALU, in the Beni area near the Ugandan border. The group has operated for years in the Rwenzori mountains in eastern Congo.
“We need to secure the population and suppress all armed groups in our country,” government spokesman Lambert Mende told reporters in Kinshasa, the capital, today. ADF-NALU regularly kidnaps and kills civilians, he said.
It’s the first time since 2006 that fighting between the army and ADF-NALU has caused the mass displacement of civilians, Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said by e-mail today. UN agencies have sent a rapid response team to the region to deal with a humanitarian emergency, he said.
A 2007 report by the World Bank said the ADF-NALU is involved in the trafficking of diamonds and gold from Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces.
The ADF, which has roots in extreme Islamic ideology, is on the U.S.’s Terrorist Exclusion List.