DR Congo

DRC: Violence hampering aid efforts in the east

NAIROBI, 22 June 2007 (IRIN) - Attacks on civilians and clashes between Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwandan rebels have hindered efforts to reach affected populations in the east, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

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 have continued to resist the Forces armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC).

According to Modido Traore, head of OCHA in South Kivu, the situation has meant populations are constantly on the move, sometimes leaving their homes at night only to return during the day.

In a report, OCHA said 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.

Tension was also high over reports of the Mayi-Mayi rebels regrouping, and the movement of FDLR fighters and displaced civilians from North to South Kivu.

In early June, the FDLR attacked Kalehe in Mule area, forcing local residents to flee their homes. Another attack the next day in Mamba area resulted in the deaths of several people, including the village chief.

OCHA, which has been coordinating assessment missions in the area, said an estimated 6,000 people displaced from Ufamando in the past three weeks were heading to Tushunguti. Another 2,000 displaced families had arrived in Lumbishi and Numbi.

Several attacks were also reported in early June: in Miti when FDRL fighters emerged from the forest to loot, plunder and rape; Kabare and Combo, and in Kajeje.

On 20 June, a visiting UN Security Council delegation called for increased efforts to end insecurity in the east. "It is necessary to address the problems of the east and in that regard, relations with Rwanda are essential," Jean-Marc de la Sablière, the leader of the delegation and French ambassador to the UN, told a news conference in Kinshasa.

A 15-member delegation was on a 24-hour visit to the DRC on the final leg of a five-nation African tour. "For each of the members of the Council it is ... an issue of great concern," De la Sablière said.

"We understand that the Congolese government has defined a strategy which will give priority to the search for a political and diplomatic solution," he added. "MONUC [the UN Mission in Congo] is ready to help the authorities to put such a strategy in place."

MONUC has so far assisted the DRC government in the formation of 15 integrated brigades mainly deployed to the east.