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UNHCR concerned about atrocities against civilians in the eastern DRC

Briefing notes

UNHCR concerned about atrocities against civilians in the eastern DRC

22 May 2009 Also available in:

UNHCR is deeply concerned about growing reports of atrocities and abuses against civilians in the North and South Kivu provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) committed both by rebel groups and by government forces, which continue to cause major population displacements in the region. Attacks and reprisals have been mainly blamed on the so-called Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) but also increasingly on the Congolese national army, the FARDC.

Two weeks ago, attacks carried out allegedly by the FDLR in the village of Ekingi, about 80 km northwest of Bukavu in South Kivu province, and in Busurungi, in Walikale territory in North Kivu province, killed more than 60 people. More than 700 houses were burned. Renewed violence against civilians continue to cause panic, forcing large number of people to leave their villages and head towards Hombo, some 20 km to the north.

Since January, repeated attacks by the FDLR in North and South Kivu have driven more than 370,000 people from their homes and into the forests or to other places of refuge.

Tensions have been high in South Kivu, the scene of increased military activity by the FARDC against the FDLR aimed at neutralizing the Rwandan Hutu rebels. The ongoing military operations in North Kivu against the FDLR have forced some 30,000 people to flee to Kahele and Shabunda districts in South Kivu.

Harassment, human rights abuses, rapes and intimidations against civilians are regularly reported by the local population in the east of DRC. Civilians are constantly living under the threat of armed men, who systematically pillage, rape women, burn houses and confiscate their harvest and food rations. Robberies as well as forced labour are also common in the region.

We urgently appeal to the Government of the DRC, with the support of the international community, to provide protection to the civilian population and to end the atmosphere of impunity surrounding crimes committed by members of the FARDC, the national police and by armed rebels such as the FDLR.

UNHCR continues to conduct protection monitoring in collaboration with its implementing partners in the most affected and accessible areas in the South Kivu. Security incidents against humanitarian workers are also on the increase. Several planned humanitarian missions have been put on hold to avoid putting beneficiaries at risk.