Top Humanitarian Official calls for protection of civilians

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 23 May 2013

(Goma, 23 May 2013): Humanitarian Coordinator Moustapha Soumaré is calling for all parties to respect international humanitarian law after three people were killed and 14 wounded by shells dropped north-west of the city of Goma on 22 May.

On 22 May, three shells exploded in the crowded neighborhood of Ndosho, located in the north-west of the city of Goma killing three people and wounding another ten. The explosions, which took place next to churches, provoked panic among the population, causing many to flee towards downtown Goma in search of safer haven. The previous night, three shells exploded next to Mugunga III IDP camp, about 10 km west of Goma which hosts 13,000 IDPs, wounding four people and destroying several houses.

“I am very concerned with the developments yesterday in Goma” said Moustapha Soumaré, the Humanitarian Coordinator in DRC. “Civilians have been injured during military operations because military positions and military actions are taking place too close to where civilian populations are located, a violation of International Humanitarian Law. Civilians should not be mistaken for military targets. I call on all parties to take all measures necessary to avoid civilian casualties.”

Thousands of people, including internally displaced persons, have fled insecurity since fighting resumed on 20 May 2013 between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and the M23 rebellion. Some have sought shelter in churches and schools in the center of Goma town, while others have moved towards the city of Sake, located 25 km west of Goma.

North Kivu, one of the country’s mineral rich province, has been destabilized for decades by armed fighting, maintaining the population in a cycle of insecurity and vulnerability.

“As the humanitarian community, we are extremely concerned about the protection of civilians and the insecurity which is hindering our capacity to assist people in urgent need of help. Humanitarian agencies are calling for total, unimpeded access to those in need”, added M. Soumaré.

The mineral-rich province hosts more than 973,000 internally displaced people, representing more than one third of the 2.6 million displaced people in the country. Since November 2012, humanitarian agencies have worked to mobilize the resources required to assist hundreds of thousands of people still displaced or returning home. Humanitarian organizations fear that the current deterioration of the situation risks exposing even more people to increasing suffering and need.

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