DRC Monthly Humanitarian Bulletin, 17 Jul - 17 Aug 1999

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 24 Aug 1999

The month that followed the signature of the Lusaka cease-fire agreement by the main state-actors to the DRC conflict was marked by extreme political and military fluctuations. Indecisive without the commitments to respect the cease-fire of the main non-state parties to the conflict, the Lusaka agreement failed to immediately apply the concluded cease-fire and the military activities continued on many fronts. International mediation efforts, led primarily by South Africa and Zambia and supported by the UN, the EU, the US and SADEC were characterised by high intensity but remained inconclusive. No sustainable political solutions were found to key problems of foreign military presence in the DRC and use of genocide perpetrators by parties to the conflict. Despite of a stagnation in the talks the preparations for deployment of military observers and eventually peace keeping forces proceeded with an overwhelming support of major regional and western powers.

Political setbacks observed during the reporting period had immediate humanitarian implications mainly seen in the amplified population displacement, shortages of vital supplies, and civilian casualties. The continuation of hostilities is placing millions of Congolese in a deadly danger, with food, medicines and other essential commodities and services reaching dangerously low levels. A month of high expectations and bitter frustrations, August 99 marked the first anniversary of the DRC international conflict.


Accessibility map. Dark "spots" indicate inaccessible areas in July and August 99.

The impact of the Lusaka cease fire agreement on the economic dynamics of the DRC was short-lived and negligible. The economic indicators continued to depict an incessant decline. The rhythm of currency depreciation slowed compared to mid-July but was still very high- 9.5 Congolese Franc against $1 US (July) up to 12 CF (August) in the parallel market. While foreign exchange rates in rebel controlled regions of the country were stable (6 FC against $1 since the early July) the soaring inflation affected the Congolese market in its entirety.

Statistics recently revealed by the Central Bank of the DRC indicate that country’s main economic activities have been severely curtailed. Copper and cobalt production as well as diamond mining that constitute the pillars of the country’s economy and the only major sources of income of the state budget are undergoing a dramatic recession (mineral and diamond production plummeted by 96 and 26 percent correspondingly compared to last year). GECAMINES one of the largest and most competitive employers in the DRC finds itself unable to operate under the current circumstances and proposes a drastic restructuring that might entail the loss of as much as 60 percent of employees (total 26,000). The impact of the dwindling industrial production is not felt by the population at large since the earnings of this sector are not channelled into social (health, education, etc.) sectors but are invested into the defence and to a lesser extent into the cumbersome civil service. Decline in the agricultural sector, on the other hand, automatically leads to inflation and reduction in food consumption. According to the Central Bank of the DRC, the palm oil (essential staple food) production declined in July 99 by almost 25 percent compared with the same period in 98. In the beginning of August the Government announced its intention to impose a strict control of the prices of essential commodities in the private sector.

Tight fiscal measures were also taken by RCD authorities in the east, where a threefold increase in income taxation was introduced in August. Local sources indicate that In Beni, Butembo and Haut Uele districts of North Kivu and Orientale the Uganda backed authorities unilaterally introduced a mechanism whereby fiscal revenues collected at the customs posts of these provinces are being channelled from Goma to RCD/Kisangani (30%) and MLC/Gbadolite (70%).

Humanitarian Action and Principles

Access to War-Affected Populations:

The accessibility of vulnerable populations both in RCD and Government controlled areas significantly improved in July and August. The increased accessibility of the war-affected populations should be attributed both to active lobbying on the part of the relief community as well as to the recognition by authorities at all levels of humanitarian imperatives. Undoubtedly, the Lusaka peace agreement had its role in improved accessibility of the vulnerable population. Although, long bureaucratic formalities required in order to access the war zones are still enforced, no cases of access denial by RCD or Government were reported in the last month. The cross frontline operations were carried out with the agreement of Kinshasa, Goma and Kisangani. The remaining pockets of inaccessibility are primarily defined a) by military activity in the northern (Equateur) and southern (Katanga and eastern Kasai) fronts; b) protracted insurrection (the Kivus and Orientale [SPLA]); c) and the re-emerged tribal clashes in Orientale.

War Prisoners.Access of ICRC to all identified (3,000) war prisoners in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Likasi, Kolwezi, Bukavu, Goma and Kalemie was full and unimpeded.

Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts

Accusations of non-compliance with the cease-fire agreement were mutual and concerned both the signatories and non-signatories to the peace deal. Breaches in the Lusaka agreement and failures to respect humanitarian principles resulted in an allegedly high number of civilian casualties.

Days of Tranquillity: By mid July 1999 all parties to the ongoing conflict, including several insurgent groups, pledged to respect days of tranquillity (8-20 August) during which a nation-wide polio vaccination campaign must have been carried out. An appeal calling for a unconditional respect of the cease-fire during the three day vaccination campaign, made by the UN Secretary General received support of all antagonists. The days preceding the immunisation campaign and its first day were relatively stable and no serious security incidents were reported. The long simmering internal tensions between the vying factions of RCD broke out into an open military confrontation in Kisangani on the second day (14 August) of the vaccination campaign and continued through 17 August. The violent fighting that erupted in centre of the DRC’s third largest city and its international airport caused death of several dozens of civilians. This event compromised the success of the campaign in Orientale and Equateur provinces and was subsequently qualified in a statement issued by the UN Secretary General as a flagrant violation of the international humanitarian law and principles.

The UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator, DRC, jointly with the members of the UN country team conducted a mission in Kisangani on Sunday 22 August 1999. The mission had an objective to express solidarity on behalf of the United Nations with the population of Kisangani, to assess the damage caused to the town and its population as well as to finalise the results of the National Immunisation Days (NIDs) interrupted by the fighting.

The team was able to fly directly from Kinshasa to Goma and Kisangani, with a special clearance from the Head of State, President Laurent Desire Kabila. The RCD leadership also acknowledged the importance of the mission.

Impact of Hostilities on the Humanitarian Situation. While observing the serious psychological and moral impact of the confrontations on the population of Kisangani, a conclusion drawn by the mission was that the physical damage to the town was rather limited. Although it appeared to the mission that neither side deliberately targeted the civilian population, no efforts had been made by the belligerents to limit the collateral damage to civilians. Key facilities such as hospitals, food reserves and water supplying/treatment facilities remained intact. In broad terms the humanitarian costs of the of 15-18 August are summarised as follows:

  • civilian casualties have occurred: given figures varied between 30 to 63. Casualties were mainly among by-standees and bicycle taxi-drivers. The body count by the Red Cross volunteers and other relevant entities were clearly not definitive since a number of ‘combat zones’ are still to be cleansed and disinfected;
  • the stated figure for civilian wounded was 72 persons, including a number of children. This figure includes only those persons who sought assistance in medical institutions. In one case at the Kabondo Hospital (General referral hospital of Kisangani), of the 12 wounded patients hospitalised, 4 died shortly after the admission, primarily because the medical personnel, stranded in various parts of the city, could not treat them. Moreover, the team observed a lack of surgical equipment, war-surgery materials and medicines; w intense hostilities caused an interruption in the commercial air-traffic (no inland road or fluvial transportation of essential food and non-food supplies is possible due to war and isolation of the city from the rest of the country) and resulted in temporary shortages of primarily foodstuff in the local market; and
  • a considerable number of corpses remained unburied on average three-four days thus posing a serious threat of contamination of soil and water sources. Intermittent water supply and inadequately treated water supplied to the city’s population are additional factors that augment the epidemiological risk within the context of a cholera-endemic city.

During a meeting with the RCD President Dr. Ilunga, on 21 August in Goma, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator called the conflicting parties to a greater adherence to international humanitarian law that provides for the protection of civilians and objects essential to their survival. The HC/DRC reiterated his concerns to the Governor of Orientale province, whom he received in the UN premises in Kisangani on 22 August 99. Shortly after the return to Kinshasa, the mission was received by the Head of State, President Kabila who was given a briefing on the humanitarian situation in Kisangani and in the eastern DRC as a whole. President of the DRC pledged to continue to support the cross frontline humanitarian initiatives of the UN.
  • The DRC Government accused rebels and their Rwandan allies of committing atrocities against the civilian population of Malemba Nkulu district of Katanga province. According to official sources, RCD troops burnt alive 40 civilians, including women and children, in an attack on Kasala village on 28 July. An OCHA led assessment mission in Malemba Nkulu district in the aftermath of the alleged massacre failed to find any confirmation of this information.
  • MLC leaders accused the DRC Government and its Sudanese allies of bombing the towns of Makanza and Bogbonga (Equateur province) killing 550 civilians. These allegations were dismissed by both Sudanese and DRC official sources. No independent enquiry of the alleged bombing was conducted to date.
  • Minorities at Risk - As a result of arrangement made by the US Government, IOM assumed the responsibility for the movement of some 1,500 Congolese Tutsi, currently in "protective custody" in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi, to Benin and Cameroon. Office of the UN HC/DRC serves as an intermediary between IOM (contact group) and the Government of the DRC. By mid August the contact group on minorities and the DRC Government found a compromise formula whereby the detained persons will be given travel documents stating the temporary nature of their departure. HC/DRC addressed a letter to the DRC authorities, requesting them to formally confirm the internees’ rights to return any time they wish and to preserve their acquired rights under the Congolese legislation. The first flight from Kinshasa to Cotonou are to be organised by IOM on 29 and 31 of August 1999. Prompted by the positive development of the detained persons’ dossier’ a number of persons of Tutsi origin that were in concealment since August 98, commenced to arrive to the protective custody centres in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.
  • Human Rights July-August were marked by a wave of repression against human right activists and political parties in Kinshasa. Arrests and arbitrary detentions of a number of political personalities from 25 through 31 July -64 members of the Parti Lumumbiste Unifié- PALU; 2 human right activists of Voix des sans Voix (VSV), the Secretary General of "Avocats sans Frontières" NGO and Mr. Christophe Lutundula, the chairman of the "Mouvement de Solidarité pour la Démocratie"- represent the largest political repression campaign in the Government held areas of the DRC since the outbreak of the war.

National Immunisation Days (NID)

The preliminary results the first round of NIDs made available by WHO and the Ministry of Health of the DRC indicate that on average 80% of the target population- children under five were vaccinated from 13 through 15 August 1999. The final results of the fist round are expected in the beginning of September. Below are some preliminary data that indicate the extent of the NID implementation but do not reveal the percentage of children vaccinated within each health zone:

# of HZ
# HZ covered by NIDs
Bas Congo
South Kivu
North Kivu
Western Kasai
Eastern Kasai
Although the 100 percent target set by the campaign’s organisers was not attained, the results of the first round are considered as a success, given the complex security and logistical situation in the country. The pockets uncovered by the first round, mainly in Equateur and Orientale provinces are now being defined to be included in the second round of the vaccination. WHO and PEV report that the cold chain facilities and vaccines for the second round in Orientale and Equateur have already been dispatched. No damage was caused to NID supplies during the Kisangani hostilities on 14-17 August.

Population Movement, Overview by Province

The reporting period was marked by high mobility of the affected populations within the country and cross border movements (influxes and outflows of refugees). In addition to the already known patterns of displacement in the DRC, additional factors, such as exposure to tribal clashes in Orientale and South Kivu that re-emerged in at the end of July causing considerable numbers of displacement. Several positive trends in the movements of the population were noted at the end of July- a timid but sustained return of displaced in several localities of South Kivu; a census of IDPs in North Kivu; and the increased accessibility of displaced communities in Katanga.

Escalating hostilities in northern Angola continued go generate additional numbers of refugees. Influxes of Congolese (ROC) refugees continued as well, at a lower scale, though. Repatriation of remnants of the 1994-96 Rwandan hutu refugee caseload continued. Plans were made for repatriation of Burundian refugees from South Kivu.

Compared to previous months, the number of Congolese seeking refuge in the neighbouring countries (Zambia, Tanzania, Central African Republic) significantly diminished.

Katanga Northern Katanga: Full and unconditional access granted by the DRC authorities to the UN in war affected zones of the province enabled a comprehensive assessment of the extent and patterns of the displacement. Some 54,500 IDPs were identified in the course of the assessment. Another 100,000 were not possible to reach due to sustained military activity. Some 30,000 IDPs have already reached Lubumbashi, the provincial capital. The overall humanitarian situation in the displaced communities was found precarious- high mortality due to diseases, malnutrition and measles. A common humanitarian action plan was developed to assist the identified displaced communities.

Orientale Inter-ethnic clashes occurred in the Ituri district of this province in mid-July 99 uprooted an estimated 30,000 persons of Lendu and Hema tribes. The fighting is said to have diminished but sporadic clashes continue to date in an area delineated by the villages of Drodro, Djigu, Fataki and Rethy. It is estimated that another 50,000 IDPs are still in western parts of the region (Opala), in upper north (Dungu) and around Isiro.

North Kivu The recurrent character of displacement in almost all rural and in a number of rural communities (since 1993) of North Kivu make the evaluation of IDPs a highly complex task. Prior to the outbreak of the war, some 80% of North Kivu’s rural communities were believed to have been displaced at least once since 1993. The new cycle of hostilities gravely affected the densely populated in Masisi-Rutshuru-Walikale triangle, where the population mobility is still high. The UN Humanitarian Office in Goma is currently sponsoring an evaluation of province’s IDPs jointly with the provincial authorities. Within the frameworks of this campaign a joint assessment mission is to be conducted in Walikale. A conservative figure of 160,000 IDPs (less than 20% of the triangle’s population) was maintained for planning purposes.

South Kivu High mobility of the populations was noted in South Kivu as well. This included both - the return to home communities and new displacements. At least of 50% IDPs in Shabunda axis (57,000 persons - evaluation by WFP and OCHA- June) have reportedly returned to their communities. Return movement of populations was also noted along the shores of lake Tanganyika, most notably in the village of Makobola. At the same time, persisting tensions in Haut and Moyen Plateaux, in Katana and Walungu generate additional numbers of displaced and refugees (in Tanzania). The continued outflows of IDPs into Tanzania (on average 200 persons per day) indicate that the security concerns which prompted them to flee their homes in the first place are still considerable.

Equateur Full scale war in central Equateur has already uprooted an estimated 126,000 persons. This estimation is on the optimistic side, since it only includes the population of Ikela zone that has been a scene of fierce fighting since May 1998. Ikela town "changed hands" several times, prior to its capture by MLC forces in the early August. No additional movements of the population of Equateur across the DRC/CAR border was observed.

Eastern Kasai War affected eastern regions of this province remained completely inaccessible. According to missionary sources, the weakened military pressure exerted by RCD troops on the Kabinda direction of the frontline resulted in stabilisation of the population’s mobility. The planning figure of 60,000 IDPs in this province, includes the population of Lubao and its vicinity that fled westwards in the early 1999 but are still inaccessible.

Estimated number of IDPs
DRC Refugees in the region
Katanga- 185,000
Eastern Kasai- 60,000
Equateur- 126,000
Maniema- 20,000
North Kivu- 160,000
Orientale- 80,000
South Kivu- 195,000
Tanzania - 95,000
Zambia - 37,000
Rwanda- 30,000
CAR- 20,000
Total IDPs 826,000
Total DRC refugees 182,000
Country of Origin
Angola incl. Cabinda
Republic of Congo

The considerable increase in the numbers of affected populations in the DRC in July-August, as illustrated on the below diagram, is attributable to a number of factors. Firstly, the upward IDP curve reflects both the maintained high level of military activity in eastern provinces as well as in western and northern Equateur. Systematically increasing IDP numbers also suggest that the persisting insecurity even in relatively stable areas impedes the return of persons who have fled their homes at the end of 1998. Also, this increase is partially due to the improved accessibility of IDPs and to a greater accuracy of the processed information. Likewise, the stagnant curve representing the movement of Congolese into countries of asylum does not necessarily reflect an established stabilisation trend. In some instances, the movement across the DRC international borders (e.g. Pweto/Katanga) is impeded by security forces and military.

Assistance to IDPs

Increasing accessibility of IDPs in various parts of DRC does not automatically translate into an improvement of assistance provided to them both in qualitative and quantitative terms. Only a small margin of IDPs receive a systematic assistance in North and South Kivu (WFP, UNICEF, FAO, ICRC, IRC), and in Katanga (MSF, ICRC). The majority of accessible IDPs benefited from the polio vaccination campaign. WFP’s improving pipeline will allow to resume the IDP feeding activities in Katanga in September. Common humanitarian action plans are currently being developed for some 350,000 displaced persons in North Kivu and Katanga provinces. (UN/Red Cross/MSF/CARITAS).


A UNFPA sponsored survey conducted in July in western DRC revealed an appalling increase in the maternal mortality. The mortality registered in Kinshasa’s maternity hospitals ranges from 1,500 to 1,800 over 100,000 births. This indicator is believed to be the highest in the Great Lakes and Central African regions. The maternal mortality is believed to be higher in areas affected by the population displacement and in highly isolated province of Maniema.

The epidemiological situation in the DRC remained stable. Focalised epidemics of waterborne diseases were reported in the Kivus and eastern Orientale. The epidemic of cerebral malaria that emerged in Masisi and Walikale zones of north Kivu was contained thanks to the intervention of ICRC. Measles epidemics are on the rise and are especially rife in areas affected by displacement- the Kivus and Katanga. The epidemiological situation in Kinshasa and Bas Congo was relatively stable.


The UN inter-agency Consolidated Appeal for the DRC was launched on 22 July 1999 in Geneva by the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the DRC (HC/DRC). The UN Common Humanitarian Assistance Strategy for the DRC for the period July-August 1999 with a total budget requirement of over US $60 million was presented to more than 20 representatives of diplomatic missions and inter-governmental organisations accredited to the UN Geneva. HC/DRC also paid visits to Brussels and the Hague where he met with the officials of the Belgian and Dutch Ministries of Foreign Affairs (departments of International Co-operation) and ECHO from 19 through 23 July to discuss the preparations of the upcoming international meeting on the humanitarian problématique of the DRC and to raise donor countries’ awareness of the unmet humanitarian needs and funding shortfalls in the DRC humanitarian programme.

A UN Inter-Agency team (WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, HCHR, UNDP and OCHA) visited (from 23 July through 14 August 1999) the rebel held towns of Kisangani, Goma, Bukavu and the practically besieged capital of Eastern Kasai Mbiji-Mayi with the aim of finalising the preparations of NIDs and obtaining a confirmation of rebel authorities’ commitment to days of tranquillity. The inter-agency team flew across the frontline with the special authorisations of the DRC Government and Kisangani and Goma factions of RCD.

Katanga- Another OCHA sponsored assessment mission was conducted in Katanga province, DRC from 25 July through 11 August 1999. The exercise had the following analytical and practical objectives: To define the extent, the causes and the nature of the population displacement in northern and central Katanga; to identify the needs of displaced communities and envisage a coherent short term assistance strategy; to determine the needs for protection of IDPs and propose ways to promote respect for their rights; to outline the possible application of humanitarian principles, such as the establishment of humanitarian corridors, in the aftermath of the Lusaka process in the event of a deployment of peace keeping forces in the areas of sustained cease-fire. The assessment of IDP communities was conducted by 60 evaluators consisting of catholic missionaries, staff of Caritas-Congo and clergymen of various parishes of Katanga. The evaluations were carried out in all major axes of the province where intensive population mobility had been reported earlier. The first group was fielded on 25 July on the Lubumbashi- Kamina- Kabongo- Budi axis and was followed by the others till 11 August 1999. The evaluation culminated in an inter-agency assessment mission (OCHA/MSF-B/WFP/Caritas/local health authorities) to one of the newest IDPs sites in Kinkonja and Malemba Nkulu. A brief mission to northern Katanga (Kalemie) was subsequently (17-18 August) conducted by the UN Goma team from the rebel held zones.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.