DR Congo

DRC: UNHCR - 'We are very concerned with the situation in North Kivu'

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Eoin Young / MONUC

The situation in North Kivu remains precarious with 64,000 people displaced since March, as Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) operations against the FDLR and Mai Mai militias intensifies. According to UNHCR spokesman Jens Hesemann, the accompanying looting and violence committed against the civilian population by both the militias and the FARDC is the primary cause of the crisis.

The Kiwanja- Nyamilima axis is the focal point of the displacements, as well as Rutshuru and other areas, where whole villages lie deserted as people flee into the forests or seek refuge at MONUC Mobile Operating Bases (MOB's).

UNHCR has sent 25 monitoring teams to the area to identify key human rights problems and to assess the needs of the local population. They have visited various sites and taken statements from the displaced, compiling evidence of gross human rights violations.

"The FARDC, the FDLR and the Mai Mai have committed gross violations, including widespread looting, sexual violence, and direct attacks on civilians. The FARDC, especially the newly mixed brigades, have a perception that the local population is cooperating with the militias, and because of this they are committing attacks on civilians," Mr. Hesemann explained.

UNHCR's main focus is to help protect civilians from violence, through monitoring and advocacy.

"Our teams are going back with information on displacements to the military and the authorities, and we are working very closely with WFP and UNICEF / OCHA as well," Mr. Hesemann said.

Mr. Hesemann concluded by saying that the tension went up after the mixage process, with more incidences of inter ethnic violence.

"The military operations against militia have increased, but the toll that this takes on the civilian population is enormous. Although there is a big risk of more displacements over the coming weeks, UNHCR have not yet seen any cross border movements into Uganda."