DRC: Kivu crisis worsens with 100,000 more displaced
A group of IDPs at a food distribution centre near Goma: Officials say the humanitarian and security conditions in the Kivus worsened in June - file photo
KINSHASA, 10 July 2009 (IRIN) - Humanitarian and security conditions in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kivu provinces worsened in June, when almost 100,000 people were displaced, many of whom had fled violence previously, according to humanitarian officials.
“Since May, security and humanitarian conditions worsened for thousands of civilians in North and South Kivu,” Max Hadorn, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in DRC, told reporters.
Government and UN forces in the Kivu provinces are trying to neutralise a 6,000-strong militia group dominated by Rwandan fighters, some of whom led the killings in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
In North Kivu, some 80,000 people were displaced in June, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) - an 8 percent rise over May.
Farther north, in Haut-Uele province, where Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army rebels have been terrorising the population, despite military efforts against them, 17,000 people were displaced in June.
“Military operations, attacks and abuse by armed groups and forces against the civilian population continued to pose major problems,” OCHA said in a weekly briefing note.
“Insecurity resulting from these actions has reduced humanitarian access and prevented aid organisations reaching thousands of vulnerable people,” it added. More than 400,000 people have been displaced in eastern DRC since the start of the year, according to OCHA.
In most of South Kivu, UN aid workers only travel with a military escort. DRC government forces, as well as the LRA and Rwandan militia (known by its French initials, FDLR), are widely accused of carrying out abuses against civilians, including murder, rape, looting and destruction of property.
In a report
published on 9 July, the International Crisis Group (ICG) called for the suspension of the joint military operation against the FDLR, saying it had failed to disband the group or prevent its brutal retaliation against civilians it suspected of collaborating with its enemies.
ICG called for a “comprehensive strategy” with wider international engagement aimed at delivering “a new FDLR disarmament mechanism that should plan both military measures and informational campaigns, as well as prepare the ground for judicial processes in the countries where FDLR political leaders have sought refuge and from which they spread the propaganda that is an important part of the hold they maintain over ordinary fighters”.
Failing that “the population of the Kivus will continue to bear the brunt of the FDLR’s presence and of the failed attempts to disarm them, and the fragile Congolese state will remain at risk”, ICG warned.
Photo: Noel E. King/IRIN
|Some 80,000 people were displaced in June in North Kivu - file photo
MONUC, the UN Mission in DRC, is optimistic about efforts to persuade the Rwandans in eastern DRC to return home. According to Patrick Garba, interim head of MONUC's Disarmament, Demobilisation, Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration section, more than 10,000 Rwandans were repatriated from eastern DRC between January and July 2004.
There are an estimated 20,000 non-combatant FDLR camp followers in the region. In an interview published on MONUC’s website, Garba said that of the repatriated combatants, about half were drawn from the FDLR, with the balance from a separate armed group whose leadership made peace with the DRC government earlier in 2009. Garba did not break down the returnees into combatants and civilians. According to ICG, fewer than 500 FDLR fighters surrendered to MONUC during the first three months of 2009.
Garba said there was now a lull in the repatriation process. “We cannot reach FDLR combatants because they have fled deeper into the jungle. But that should change soon because by breaking their chain of command it is easier to convince them to return home.
“It should be remembered that after operation Umoja Uwetu in February last, the number repatriated increased considerably, and we believe that it will be the same with the [ongoing] Kimia II operation. The ideal is to have corridors to make it possible for the FDLR, who do not want to remain in the jungle, to return home.”