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HRW: Surrendered Combatants Die at DRC Camp

  • VOA News

A rights group says more than 100 demobilized fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo have died from starvation and disease in a remote military camp.

In a statement Wednesday, New York-based Human Rights Watch called the DRC's neglect of the people at the Kotakali camp in the northwestern DRC "criminal."

It called on the government to move everyone at the camp to a more accessible site, hold to account those responsible for the mistreatment, and encourage greater U.N. involvement in the rehabilitation of former fighters.

The camp in Equateur province houses hundreds of surrendered fighters from various armed groups and their families.

A coordinator for the camp told the rights group that the government in Kinshasa does not have the means or the capacity to transport provisions to the site.

Human Rights Watch says that 42 demobilized combatants, five women and 57 children have died at the camp since December.

The group's report quotes a former combatant at the camp as saying the people interned there resembled the sufferers of famine in Somalia and Ethiopia.

Several women were reported to have had miscarriages because of lack of food, and at least one woman was said to have died during her pregnancy.

Congo's vice prime minister and minister of defense and former combatants, Alexandre Luba Ntambo, told Human Rights Watch on Tuesday that the former combatants and their dependents are held in the camp much longer than expected because of paperwork delays and what they called "hesitation of donors" to finance the camp program.

Ntambo said the government decided August 5 to send the combatants to another camp, but the process has been delayed because of lack of means to transport them.