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DRC: North Kivu Situation Update, 1 - 7 Dec 2007


DR Congo: OCHA North Kivu Humanitarian Situation Update, 01 - 07 Dec 2007

Number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) :

* Since December 2006 : 425,000 (Mainly in Rutshuru and Masisi districts)

* Total estimated number for entire North Kivu : 800,000

HIGHLIGHTS

* Intensification of fighting between the Congolese army and soldiers loyal to dissident ex-General Laurent Nkunda in Masisi and Rutshuru districts.

* Important population displacement from general area of Nyanzale towards North Rutshuru.

* Concerns from the humanitarian community about protection of all civilians in general area of Kirolirwe and Kitchanga.

SECURITY CONTEXT

On 2nd December, troops loyal to dissident ex-General Laurent Nkunda launched attacks against FARDC and took control of Katsiru, Nyanzale and Kikuku, in north of Rutshuru district. The following day FARDC launched military operations with intense fighting against Nkunda's troops west and north of Sake. Fighting has continued throughout the week. As of today, FARDC regained control of Kikuku, Nyanzale and Katsiru and the road between Sake and Masisi is now reportedly entirely under FARDC control, while the front line has progressed north up to Kabati, around 15 km south of Kirolirwe.

In the aftermath of FARDC withdrawal from general area of Nyanzale, clashes are reported around Kibirizi, in the north of Rutshuru, among different FARDC factions.

The withdrawal of Mayi Mayi called 'Jackson' from south Lubero district early November has created a security void in the area. FDLR elements and remaining Mayi Mayi have taken over and consequently the security situation for civilians is precarious. As of today, no significant governmental troops have deployed in the area to restore law and order since a large number of the troops initially based in Kanyabayonga have been redeployed for reinforcement in Rutshuru district.

HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

Access and Assistance

Due to ongoing fighting this week, all movements of UN staff outside of Goma are restricted. Moreover several humanitarian organisations had temporarily withdrawn their staff from areas close to the clashes and most assistance convoys have been postponed. Those who stayed reduced their operations to life saving emergencies in Masisi town and Kitchanga.

Humanitarian partners refrained movements towards general area of Rutshuru town early this week, but absence of fighting on the road between Goma and Rutshuru town allowed NGOs to fully redeploy in the area. However security remains volatile on this road and organisations must move with all precautions.

On 7th December, some NGOs have resumed access to Masisi town through Sake with light vehicles and commercial traffic has also reportedly resumed, despite bad road conditions.

Access to Kanyabayonga and Kibirizi has also resumed, but humanitarian partners are mainly operating from Beni to access this area.

However, access to Kirolirwe and Kitchanga by road remains impossible due to ongoing intense fighting on the road. OCHA and UNHCR will conduct a mission by helicopter, facilitated by MONUC, on 8th December in this area to interact with the population.

Population movements and Protection

An estimated 50,000 IDPs added to the local population were in general area of Nyanzale before the offensive of Laurent Nkunda's troops against FARDC on 2nd December. As a result of theses operations virtually all of them fled north mainly towards Kibirizi and Kanyabayonga. Some of these people had already fled general area of Mweso a few months ago when fighting between Laurent Nkunda's troops and FDLR/PARECO elements took place there. INGO Solidarités reports that around 1,500 displaced families arrived in Kibirizi and are now forced to spend overnight in the bush due to clashes among FARDC elements in this area. INGOs Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam GB report around 1,500 new displaced families who arrived in Kanyabayonga in the past days.

As of today, military operations west and north of Sake have caused rather small population displacements since they took place in areas where very few civilians remained. UNHCR reported 302 new displaced families who arrived in Goma this week and settled in Buhimba camp. However, the front

line has progressed towards Kirolirwe this week and is now posing a serious risk for the protection of the 15,000 IDPs in the town and local population. FARDC have also stated their commitment to pursue fighting up to Kitchanga which ultimately could endanger the 19,000 IDPs and local population gathered in this town. Humanitarian community is advocating to MONUC, Congolese authorities and CNDP (political movement associated to Laurent Nkunda) to create a protected area east or west of the main front line to allow population to escape the fighting. In a press conference given in Goma on 7th December, MONUC Force Commander stated that any decision must be taken not only in close dialogue with humanitarian community but also with the military and the population. This issue will be addressed with the population and IDPs if the mission tomorrow to the area can proceed.

Civilian population in South Lubero is facing an increased number of exactions perpetrated by FDLR present in the area. Looting, exploitation for forced labour and sexual violence are among the consequences of the precarious security situation. An increased presence of governmental forces would be required to provide protection for this population.

ENDS

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