DRC: Attacks against civilians and aid workers increase in the east

KINSHASA, 22 May 2009 (IRIN) –

Humanitarian organisations are increasingly coming under attack in North and South Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with the civilian population also being affected by attacks and counter-attacks between Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR) militia and the Congolese army, aid officials said.

"Humanitarian organisation vehicles have been intercepted to transport FARDC [Congolese army] soldiers or passengers’ belongings looted," Ndiaga Seck, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said.

"… The perpetrators of the attacks are either the FDLR or FARDC," said Seck, adding that some NGOs had been threatened. "This has led, for example, to some partners suspending their activities in Fizi and in other territories."

According to a UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) situation report for 6-20 May, DRC army and non-state combatants continue to commit human rights violations, particularly in areas of FARDC deployment, in preparation for Operation Kimia II, and in zones held by the FDLR.

"… These include targeted attacks committed by armed forces against civilians and humanitarian workers; this environment has reduced [UNICEF] … and its humanitarian partners’ [access] to assist the people in need," stated the report.

While returns have been registered in North Kivu, new, massive population displacement has occurred after renewed fighting, said UNICEF.

"The increasing insecurity is an obstacle to the implementation of humanitarian activities," it said. "From January to April 2009, 44 attacks against humanitarian workers have been registered; this means on average there is one attack every three days."

The attacks represent a 22 percent increase on the same period in 2008, stated the report.

More sexual violence cases are being reported in the Kalehe and Shabunda territories of South Kivu since the deployment of army soldiers there, according to a 20 May update by OCHA. The soldiers have been deployed in preparation for a joint anti-FLDR operation with the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC).

The soldiers are engaging in looting and rape during their foot patrols and are contributing to a new wave of population displacement, according to the update (see box). It said the village of Karega has twice been looted in separate incidents by the FDLR and FARDC.

Seck said two women and four men had been taken into the forest and that residents in some villages had been threatened and were being held hostage by the FDLR.

According to MONUC spokesman Lt-Col Jean-Paul Dietrich, the clashes are due to FDLR counter-attacks in inhabited areas or in FARDC-occupied zones.

Dietrich said the reprisals were also targeting civilians who have had dealings with the armed groups, adding that FARDC had managed to push the FDLR back.


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