'Civilians bearing brunt of South Kivu violence'

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has expressed concern over abuses against civilians, especially women and children, in South Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, saying it frequently receives reports of abductions, executions, rapes and pillage.

Announcing an operation on 2 July to help 15,000 people displaced by increased violence in the region, the ICRC said a large number of families had fled their homes in the region.

"The ICRC is particularly concerned about abuses committed by armed persons against the civilian population, usually women and children," said Patrick Walder, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Bukavu.

The displaced are in the locality of Kaniola, 60km east of the provincial capital, Bukavu.

"The operation has been made possible by a broader humanitarian effort coordinated between several large international organisations working in the country," the ICRC said in a statement. "That effort is covering the most urgent needs of 55,000 people affected by the violence."

To support medical facilities struggling to cope with the influx of internally displaced persons fleeing the violence, the ICRC is also providing Walungu and Kaniola hospitals with medical kits to treat the wounded, and other essential supplies.

The organisation said it would continue to monitor the security situation in the area and pursue its dialogue with the local civilian and military authorities.

"To this end it is maintaining a confidential dialogue with the relevant authorities about violations of international humanitarian law, while closely monitoring the situation of people displaced within the country," the ICRC said.

Clashes

On 22 June, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said attacks on civilians and clashes between Congolese and Rwandan rebels had hindered efforts to reach affected populations in eastern DRC.

The attacks were mainly perpetrated by the Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR) rebels, who fled their country after the 1994 genocide, and continue to clash with the Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC).

The head of OCHA in South Kivu, Modido Traore, said the situation meant populations were constantly on the move. According to OCHA, attacks against civilians reached a peak in March. Some calm prevailed thereafter, but a new wave occurred in May.

One such attack left 18 dead in Nyalubuze, Muhungu and Cihamba, with 27 injured and four kidnapped. Leaflets were dropped giving warning of more trouble.

On 20 June, a 15-member UN Security Council visiting delegation called for increased efforts to end insecurity in the east.

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