Page last updated at 22:59 GMT, Thursday, 29 April 2010 23:59 UK

Top UN man in DR Congo mission as unrest escalates

By Thomas Fessy
BBC News, Kinshasa

UN man John Holmes is in DR Congo
John Holmes will meet president Joseph Kabila during five-day mission

The UN's top humanitarian official has flown into the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo as armed groups continue to spread insecurity.

John Holmes will travel to three provinces where humanitarian workers face increasingly difficult conditions.

He will also visit a region where tens of thousands of people have reportedly been forced to flee their homes.

Human rights abuses such as rapes and lootings are reported regularly in the country.

Fighting and banditry

Mr Holmes will visit the Kivu region, where a military campaign backed by the UN against Rwandan Hutu rebels has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Aid workers say better protection for civilians was promised at the end of similar joint military operations last year.

But, in reality, human rights abuses such as rapes and lootings are reported regularly.

And, they say, displacements of populations are constant. The situation is becoming increasingly difficult for humanitarian workers whose operations have been restricted by fighting and banditry.

As a result, thousands of people in need are left with no assistance.

Mr Holmes is also travelling to the north-eastern part of the country, where attacks by Ugandan rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army on villages are still frequent.

His Congo tour will eventually take him to the western province of Equateur, where a recent insurgency by Enyele fighters has pushed thousands of people into the bush.

The Congolese authorities have asked the UN mission to prepare for a withdrawal; Mr Holmes will be discussing civilian protection issues with President Joseph Kabila on Monday.

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