Thousands Flee Across Congo’s Borders After Violence in East Rages

drA military offense against rebel groups by the Democratic Republic of Congo has forced more than 8,000 refugees into neighboring Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania in the past week, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters on Tuesday.

“Since last week almost 7,000 people have crossed to neighboring Burundi and an additional 1,200 to Tanzania,” Baloch said at a press conference in Geneva. “It is believed that many more are displaced inside South Kivu in difficult conditions without shelter or food.”

The UNHCR also reported that more than 15,000 people have entered Uganda either on foot or by crossing Lake Albert in fishing boats or canoes since December.

The DR Congo government last week announced it had launched an offensive against two rebel militias in the nation’s eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu provinces.

Congolese Yakutumba rebels are battling government forces in South Kivu, while the rival Islamist Allied Democratic Force controls much of North Kivu.