, DR. CONGO, Feb 24 – UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited on Tuesday a camp for displaced people in the restive east of Democratic Republic of Congo where several shelters for people fleeing conflict are under threat of closure by the authorities.
Following a trip to neighbouring Burundi, Ban travelled about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province to the Mungote camp, an AFP photographer reported.
The camp located in Kitchanga, a town of 80,000 inhabitants, is home to around 15,000 people, according to the United Nations.
The UN chief met with some of the women in the camp and visited a school where he shared a hot lunch with children.
The number of displaced people in DR Congo stood at 1.6 million as of late September, with North Kivu province having the biggest share at 604,000, according to the UN Office of for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The east of the vast central African nation has been plagued with armed conflicts between rival militias over ethnic and land disputes for more than 20 years.
But the future of camps for those displaced appears in jeopardy after regional authorities in January dismantled a camp at Mokoto where 4,260 people lived, the UN said.
According to OCHA, the move it described as a “mass punishment” was sparked by the discovery of a weapon in a hut and the authorities gave “the humanitarian workers only a week to inform the population.”
In December 2014, it was the discovery of weapons that led the North Kivu authorities to close a camp of 2,300 people and announce they would begin closing other camps for security reasons.
Ban travelled later to the capital Kinshasa where he will open Wednesday a private investment conference for the Great Lakes region aimed at attracting investors to help establish peace in a region that has been in crisis for 20 years.
– ‘Crackdown on opponents’ –
Human Rights Watch meanwhile lashed out in a statement at the government in Kinshasa over what it branded the arbitrary arrest of eight youth activists.
The arrests were made during a strike called by the opposition to warn the country’s President Joseph Kabila against trying to cling to power disrupted life in the capital.
“The youth activists and at least 30 political opposition supporters were detained on or around February 16, 2016, in connection with a national strike, or ‘ville morte’ (dead city), to protest delays in organising presidential elections,” the New York-based group said.
“Other activists who supported the ville morte have received text message threats from unknown phone numbers.”
HRW’s senior Africa researcher Ida Sawyer branded the latest arrests “part of a growing crackdown on opponents of the government’s attempts to delay elections and extend the president’s term in office.”
Opposition leaders believe that Kabila, in power since 2001, wants to get round the constitution to run for office again, after his final mandate expires in December. Kabila’s foes argue that his call for dialogue is a ploy ahead of elections due at the end of the year.