Thousands of refugees are fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo in several directions as a result of separate flare-ups of fighting in the vast country, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday.

More than 15,000 Congolese have fled to southern Sudan in recent months to escape violence from Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels, who have attacked towns in northeastern Congo several times since January, UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said.

Some 3,000 Rwandans who had been living in eastern Congo have also left the country in the past six weeks, fearing being caught in the crossfire of a Rwandan-Congolese offensive against another rebel group in the region, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FLDR).

And about 47,000 Congolese refugees have crossed into Uganda since fighting against the FLDR escalated in the North Kivu province last year, with about 180 people a day still trickling in, Redmond said.Congo “is sending refugees in several directions,” he told a news briefing in Geneva, where the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is based.

Redmond said a recent LRA attack on the northeast Congolese town of Aba caused as many as 100,000 people to flee, with most seeking refuge in southern Sudan or near the border with Congo, where the rebels are continuing to operate.”It is critical to move all of these refugees away from border areas both for security reasons and to facilitate distribution of aid,” Redmond said, stressing that the upcoming rainy season would make key roads in the region impassable.

In the east of the country, thousands more Rwandan civilians are expected to keep crossing into their homeland as a result of escalating violence in their midst. “Most of these people spent almost 15 years in eastern DRC and in many places they integrated with the local Congolese communities,” Redmond said.

The UNHCR and other aid agencies are working to distribute clean water and food, build latrines, and help move people to transit centres in response to the multiple demands in Congo, a former Belgian colony with a population of nearly 67 million. In addition to Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda, the country’s other neighbours are Angola, Zambia, Tanzania, Burundi, Central African Republic, and the smaller Congo-Brazzaville.



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