Seven drown fleeing DR Congo violence

Congolese refugees push a boat out in Tchomia, as its sets off to escape over Lake Albert to Uganda on March 05, 2018. AFP PHOTO | JOHN WESSELS  

Seven people fleeing violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo drowned when their boat capsized during a bid to reach Uganda across Lake Albert, Congolese sources said on Friday.

"Their canoe was overladen and became unstable," Deogratias Abaingi Rusoke, head of the district of Kasenyi, told AFP, adding that only one body had so far been recovered.

Tens of thousands of people have made the perilous crossing of the Great Lake to flee violence in Ituri province between the Hema and Lendu ethic groups — cattle herders and farmers who have a long history of fighting over land.

More than a hundred have died in the unrest since mid-December, and as many as 200,000 have fled their homes, according to estimates by humanitarian workers. Several dozen have died of cholera on the Ugandan side of the lake.

Ituri lies in the deeply troubled east of DR Congo, a sprawling region that includes the provinces of North and South Kivu, where huge swathes of land are controlled by militias.

In 2003, violence between the Hema and Lendu communities triggered Operation Artemis, a three-month operation by the European Union — its first military mission outside Europe.

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