Saturday, March 07, 2009

DRC: Mayhem as militia group returns to North Kivu

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it is extremely worried about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the eastern Congolese province of North Kivu, where some 160,000 people have been uprooted from their homes since January and returning militia are attacking local civilians and aid workers.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) returned to the north and central areas of North Kivu, attacking civilians and targeting humanitarian relief convoys, after a joint military operation by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda aimed at ridding them from area ended in mid-February.

UNHCR credited the FDLR – composed mainly of Hutus who arrived in the DRC in the wake of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda – with at least 17 attacks, including of killing, looting, kidnapping and raping of civilians, and the ambushing and burning of vehicles, since mid-February.

Over the past two weeks, the FDLR has killed 34 people, kidnapped four and injured 22 others, according to a UNHCR team on the ground. In late February, the armed group ambushed several relief convoys belonging to humanitarian agencies that provide assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

This new displacement adds to the strain on an already dramatic humanitarian situation in North Kivu, which has a total of some 850,000 IDPs, many of whom have been displaced multiple times.

The UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, known as MONUC, also expressed concern about the growing danger to the civilian population in North Kivu. The mission reported that the situation in the province remains calm as blue helmets together with Congolese troops are patrolling areas vacated by the FDLR.

MONUC appealed to FDLR fighters to voluntarily join the voluntary disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and rehabilitation (DDRRR) programme managed by the mission.

Attacks by the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), has also intensified in the Orientale province of north-eastern DRC since late February, following a relative lull earlier in the month.

Dispersed elements of the LRA continue to attack the civilian population at random, according to a UNHCR team in Dungu, the regional centre of Haut Uélé, where there are frequent reports of rape and pillaging.

UNHCR estimated that the total number of Congolese civilians displaced by LRA raids in this remote part of the DRC has now surpassed 140,000 and the death toll 900, since people of Orientale province were exposed to the brutal and deadly LRA violence last September.

In addition, some 16,000 Congolese refugees crossed into southern Sudan, fleeing the LRA’s rampage and are presently sheltering in the area of Ezo, Yambio and Yei.

In a related development, a pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has decided to delay the confirmation of charges against former DRC Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The judges have asked the Prosecutor to consider submitting an amended charge sheet because –they say – the current submission seeks charges different from what the Prosecutor is arguing for, namely the criminal liability of Mr. Bemba as a commander.

Mr. Bemba, who was the President and Commander in Chief of the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC), is charged with multiple counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Source: UN News Centrez
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
Putting principles before profits