U.N. agencies say they are deeply concerned about growing reports of
atrocities and abuses against civilians in the North and South Kivu
provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They report the attacks
are being carried out by the Hutu militia group known as the Democratic
Front for the Liberation of Rwanda and also increasingly by the
Congolese national army.
aid agencies say the protection of civilians is a major concern in
North and South Kivu. They say people are terrified by armed men who
harass and intimidate them.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination
of Humanitarian Affairs or OCHA says since April, civilian populations
increasingly have become victims of lootings, extortions, killings and
OCHA spokeswoman, Elizabeth Byrs, tells VOA there has been
a huge surge in sexual violence and rape. Since the beginning of the
year, she says 463 rape cases have been registered. But, she says this
number is grossly underestimated and does not reflect the true
magnitude of the problem.
"Rape in Congo and some other places
has always been used as a weapon of war," said Byrs. "It is not a new
fact. But, now more and more women report to health structure
centers. And, this is really important because the majority is so
ashamed that they never report and they never get treatment. So, more
and more women are conscience of their rights and they report."
U.N. refugee agency reports attacks by rebel groups and government forces
are causing widespread displacement in the region. UNHCR spokesman,
Andrew Purvis, says attacks in two villages in South and North Kivu
provinces two weeks ago, caused the death of more than 60 people.
says more than 700 houses were burned. He notes renewed violence
against civilians continues to cause panic and to cause people to flee.
a large number of people we understand are on the roads now heading
north of Busuringi to find shelter," said Purvis. "Since January,
attacks by the FDLR [Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda] in
North and South Kivu have driven more than 370,000 people from their
homes and into the forests and other places of refuge."
UNHCR and OCHA are appealing to the DRC government to provide
protection to the civilian population and to end the atmosphere of
impunity surrounding crimes committed by the Congolese national army,
the national police and armed rebels.