Six million Congolese displaced by war - minister

KINSHASA, July 29 (Reuters) - Years of warfare in Democratic Republic of Congo have forced 6 million people from their homes, the country's humanitarian affairs minister said, giving a figure several times higher than previous estimates.

"Six million people, more or less, have abandoned their places of origin to flee fighting," Jean Claude Muyambu said in a speech to politicians, aid workers and journalists in the capital Kinshasa late on Saturday.

Muyambu said President Joseph Kabila's government planned to build more housing in the sprawling capital Kinshasa and the southern mining centre of Lubumbashi.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has estimated the huge central African country has 1.1 million internally displaced people and a further 400,000 have fled abroad.

Aid agencies estimate around 4 million Congolese have been killed by fighting or related hunger and disease since the outbreak of the country's 1998-2003 war, in which six foreign armies joined in fighting over Congo's huge mineral riches.

Despite a 2003 peace deal and the country's first free elections in over 40 years being held last year, militia fighting continues in parts of eastern Congo, especially North Kivu province.

There, a surge in fighting between Tutsi-dominated Congolese army brigades and mainly Hutu Rwandan rebels has forced more than 160,000 people from their homes this year alone, bringing the number of displaced in North Kivu to 650,000, UNHCR said in mid-July.

Far away in western Congo, aid workers and overstretched local authorities are struggling to help tens of thousands of Congolese nationals deported in the past few weeks from Angola, where they had been illegally mining diamonds.