DRC: MONUC blames disinformation as protests over aid mount in North Kivu

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Growing impatience over aid deliveries to displaced civilians in Democratic Republic of Congo’s province of North Kivu has sparked another demonstration against the UN mission there, MONUC, which blamed the unrest on deliberately-spread false rumours.

"A group of between 400 and 500 angry displaced people threw stones at a MONUC convoy in the village of Buray, 2km south of Rutshuru on 6 November,” MONUC spokesman Colonel Pierre Chareyron told IRIN.

The convoy reached the village of Rubare and later headed to Bunagama, where the mission was setting up a mobile unit. "The blue helmets remained in control of the situation. No shots were fired and nobody was injured," Chareyron said.

“MONUC greatly regrets that following various interventions by local groups, its personnel are often made a scapegoat and the target of serious, unjustified violence by various groups or individuals,” another MONUC spokesman, Kemal Saiki, told reporters.

He added that constant movement of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North Kivu made delivering food very complicated.

On 5 November, IDPs in Rutshuru stoned a MONUC patrol in the town, wounding more than two dozen peacekeepers, after food distribution and a registration programme were suspended over fears for aid workers’ safety.

In nearby Kiwandja on the same day, a child was reportedly killed by a stray bullet fired by police. Saiki said that false rumours were being spread; claiming MONUC was supporting dissident troops led by Laurent Nkunda.

Minister of Provincial Administration Kasereka Kalwahe told reporters that a government team was in North Kivu to investigate and calm down the local population.

“Displaced people will no longer roam the streets after we explain MONUC’s role in the peace process,” he said. “The displaced will return home. We ask them to be patient and trust the government as the president [Joseph Kabila] has promised to deliver peace soon and I think we will get there.”

MONUC-run Radio Okapi reported that traffic between Goma, the main town in North Kivu, and Rutshuru had been paralysed because of the disturbances.

"Schools and shops in areas around Kiwandja remain closed," the radio said. "Local authorities said that the delay in the distribution of humanitarian aid provoked anger among the displaced."

According to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), civilians’ resentment against UN agencies, NGOs and MONUC had escalated.

“An aid vehicle was looted on 28 October. Stones were thrown at World Food Programme workers on 26 October in the Muganga II site, where 500 people came in and made off with 1.4 tonnes of food,” OCHA spokesman Nestor Yombo-Djema told reporters.

“Despite these violent episodes which endangered the lives of humanitarian workers, activities that help affected populations are continuing,” added the spokesman.

UN estimates say violence in North Kivu has forced at least 370,000 civilians to flee their homes since December 2006. Insecurity has often impeded efforts to provide assistance to those displaced.

Fighting in the region has mainly pitted renegade soldiers loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda against government troops. Clashes have escalated since September.

Source: IRIN