DRC: NGO suspends operations amid increased displacement in the east

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Violence in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has forced non-governmental organisations to limit operations in some areas in North and South Kivu, officials said, even as more people are displaced.

On 25 June, armed men wearing military uniforms attacked two vehicles belonging to Solidarité Internationale in Kisharo in the Rutshuru territory of North Kivu. A vehicle was looted.

Kemal Saiki, spokesman for the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC), said the incident followed a similar one several days earlier in the same area. Attacks against humanitarian actors had also occurred in South Kivu where an NGO storehouse in Uvira was plundered on 20 June.

Regis Mathon, Solidarité's coordinator in eastern DRC, said the recent attack had forced the agency to stop some operations. "We have suspended our activities in Rutshuru territory after this attack," he said, adding that the NGO would, however, remain in other areas of the east. "Our vehicle was attacked by armed men who are hard to identify," he added.

The agency "suspended activities in the area controlled by the troops of dissident [Congolese army] General Laurent Nkunda as security conditions deteriorated", Saiki said on 27 June.

Similar attacks had displaced more civilians in Kiwandja, Nyamilima, Ishasha and Kisharo, all in North Kivu, where 42,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) had gathered since February.

In South Kivu, increased tension due to army operations against fighters of the Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and a Congolese militia known as the Rastas had caused more displacement in June.

Saiki said a joint evaluation mission by MONUC and humanitarian actors toured Kisharo, Nyamilima and Ishasha areas last week and noted that almost daily attacks were being committed against civilians, either by the FDLR or by soldiers from the mixed brigades.

In some parts of the two provinces, mixed brigades exist alongside troops loyal to Nkunda, who have not been integrated into the Congolese army. There are also integrated troops and fighters from armed groups, usually foreigners, such as the Rwandan FDLR.

"MONUC deplores these incidents, which are occurring while response mechanisms are being explored between MONUC and the concerned actors," Saiki said.

MONUC, he added, was also concerned about the political manoeuvres of Nkunda’s Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP), because it was pushing civilian authorities to close IDP camps in Kichanga, Mweso in Masisi territory and Nyanzale, Rutshuru territory.

The CNDP was also imposing taxes on the populations and putting in place its own administration. As a result, about 5,000 families displaced from Kisharu, representing an estimated 25,000 people, remain without assistance because of the high risk to aid workers of attacks by armed groups in the area.
Another 2,299 families - 11,495 people - had arrived in Kisharu, Saiki said.

Nkunda, initially a commander in the former rebel movement, Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD), was integrated into the regular Congolese army but declined to take up his position and continues to stage attacks in the east.

Source: IRIN