UN Rushes Aid As Fighting Continues In DR Congo
UN rushes aid as sporadic fighting continues in eastern DR Congo
10 November 2008 – The United Nations is rushing relief to civilians affected by the violence engulfing the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as the world body’s peacekeeping mission in the vast African nation reports that fighting continues intermittently.
The mission, known by its French acronym MONUC, has restricted the movement of UN personnel due to the hostilities in North Kivu province, where clashes have recently escalated between Government forces (FARDC) and the Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP), a militia led by former general Laurent Nkunda.
The fighting has displaced more than 250,000 people, on top of the existing 800,000 forced from their homes by previous hostilities. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 15,000 Congolese have been registered in neighbouring Uganda.
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) continue to gather at UN facilities, with another 600 people reported to have arrived today.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that 29 tons of emergency aid supplies – including 1 million water purification tablets and sheets – to help 100,000 people displaced in the past 10 days arrived yesterday in Goma, North Kivu’s capital.
“These supplies will contain the spread of cholera and diarrhoea, both extremely contagious diseases on the rise in nearly all internally displaced person settlements in North Kivu,” said Pierrette Vu Thi, the agency’s DRC Representative.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reports that nearly two dozen trucks carrying supplies are crossing into Goma from nearby Uganda and Rwanda on a daily basis. Food is also reaching the provincial capital by barge from Bukavu, South Kivu, and from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on trucks.
Today, the agency expects to finish delivering 10-day food rations for 135,000 people in six camps around Goma.
Distribution to one of these settlements in Kibati was thwarted last Friday by fighting, but has since resumed and delivery of supplies to feed 65,000 people and materials to build shelter for over 300 families is expected to be completed today.
Insecurity, including pillaging of homes and harassment, has also forced aid groups in South Lubero, almost 200 kilometres north of Goma, to withdraw.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s clashes around Rutshuru, also situated north of Goma and near the borders with Rwanda and Uganda, prevented the return of some 5,000 families living in spontaneous settlements in the nearby town of Kiwanja, the site of fighting last week between CNDP and pro-Government PARECO/Mayi Mayi militia.
A MONUC team investigating last week’s violence in Kiwanja received credible reports of the deaths of a large number of civilians, but noted that exact figures cannot be established.
The mission, which visited 11 burial sites that witnesses claim hold bodies of combatants and civilians, also heard reports that civilians were targeted with reprisal attacks after Mayi Mayi forces abandoned the town to the CNDP.
Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MONUC, characterized the aggression in Kiwanja as “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that five medical centres in Rutshuru require urgent restocking. Water and sanitation is a priority concern in the area, with no toilets or washing facilities available to IDPs. One cholera death and four new cases of the disease were reported over the weekend.
Last week, the African Union (AU) hosted a summit in Nairobi, Kenya, which brought together DRC President Joseph Kabila and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, as well as the leaders of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Africa.
The gathering ended with a joint statement being issued in which the heads of State called for “an immediate ceasefire by all the armed men and militia in North Kivu.”
Also in attendance was Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, joined by Mr. Doss and Mr. Ban’s newly appointed Special Envoy and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo.
“For far too long, peace and security in your region has been threatened by armed groups, domestic and foreign, present on the soil of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have been operating from there with impunity, aggravating strains between your countries and between your peoples,” Mr. Ban said at the event.