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Zaïre: Masisi - a forgotten conflict

04-10-1995 News Release 40

The ICRC has launched a programme in Masisi, a mountainous region of Kivu province, north-west of the town of Goma, to assist people displaced by the interethnic strife that has prevailed in the area since March 1993. Initially, the clashes pitched indigenous ethnic groups against Rwandan immigrants who had settled in Zaire before its independence. Since July 1994, however, the conflict has assumed a new dimension with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees in Kivu, a development that has made it easier to bring weapons into the region.

On 23 September an ICRC team arrived in one Masisi village just after it had been attacked, and found 25 bodies and 17 burnt-out houses. The ICRC estimates that there were over 200 killings in Masisi during the month of July alone. The outside world is largely unaware of this conflict raging on the Rwanda-Zaire border, partly because of the inaccessibility of the region and partly because it has been eclipsed by the plight of the Rwandan refugees. It is nonetheless one of the factors in the crisis affecting the whole of the Great Lakes region.

The ICRC is distributing relief supplies, mainly blankets, hoes, cooking pots and jerrycans, to almost 150,000 displaced people in Masisi. The aim is to enable them to resettle in other villages or, better still, to help them return home.