[JURIST] The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [official site] on Friday voiced its concern [press release] for Congolese civilians displaced by continued fighting in North Kivu. The UNHCR and its affiliates typically oversee 31 refugee camps hosting over 108,000 people in the eastern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archives], but fighting in the region has restricted access to nearly all of these camps. According to UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards, humanitarian aid can reach only one camp, Mugunga III, located west of the provincial capital Goma. Kouassi Lazare Etien, the head of the UNHCR’s office in Goma, visited Mugunga III on Thursday for the first time since the rebel group 23 March Movement (M23) [JURIST news archives] captured the city on Tuesday. According to Etien, a head count was conducted by local partners on Friday to gauge the number of refugees in the camp and determine the most vulnerable. The UNHCR is also concerned about violence against civilians in Goma and the nearby town Sake, and is appealing to all parties to the conflict to avoid placing civilians in harm’s way.
The UN has been increasingly concerned about the actions of M23 against civilians over the past several months. Last Tuesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] also expressed concern [JURIST report] for civilians in Eastern DRC caught in the continued fighting between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and M23. This was a concern she had previously voiced in June [JURIST report], stating that civilians have been in heightened danger since the fighting began. In an emergency meeting on Saturday, the UN Security Council [official website] reiterated its condemnation of M23 [JURIST report] after a series of guerrilla attacks that displaced 4,000 civilians. It called for an end to all support for the rebel group and demanded that M23 end its attacks. The Security Council had previously condemned M23 [JURIST report] in early August.