DRC: Instability increasing in Orientale province

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Airplanes may be needed to help some 6,000 people displaced during attacks by Ugandan rebels in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who are not accessible by humanitarian agencies, officials said.

“The idea is to send food and non-food items in by plane, given that it is difficult now to send a road convoy because of logistical and security reasons,” said Jean-Charles Dupin of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Orientale Province.

The civilians fled attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in September along the main north-south road in the province’s Dungu territory.

“The displaced are spread out across several villages in the forest. All figures for the numbers of displaced in Dungu territory are estimates,” Holly Berman, a senior protection officer with the UN Refugee Agency, told IRIN.

Moroccan troops from the UN Mission in DRC, MONUC, have set up a security perimeter in the area and government soldiers have also been deployed.

Earlier in October, the provincial government donated CFr7 million (about US$11,000) to help the people of Dungu.

“This amount is insignificant given the number of displaced; it’s about 50 US cents per person,” said local journalist Gracien Ira.

Some 113 people are reported to have been killed during LRA attacks over the past two months.

On 20 October, the Ugandan rebels struck the town of Bangadi, in Haut Uele district, and clashed with a civilian self-defence unit there. According to witnesses cited in an OCHA situation report, the LRA lost several fighters and in turn killed many people in Bangadi, including a teacher, an agronomist and a pharmacist. They also looted the hospital.

Meanwhile, in Ituri district, also in Orientale province, government troops have retaken some of the places previously held by DRC insurgents, although local authorities say 100,000 people in the district are still displaced.

“We know the fighters are not far away. We have to make sure the beneficiaries are not looted the night after a distribution,” said OCHA’s Dupin.

OCHA has described the humanitarian situation in Ituri as “worrying … Given the presence of armed groups across the district, the humanitarian community believes insecurity in the district could degenerate if adequate political and military measures are not taken quickly. Many people affected by this insecurity cannot be reached by aid workers.”