After a promising peace agreement earlier this year, the situation has dramatically worsened recently in the eastern DRC. Fighting has resumed and once again the civilian population is bearing the brunt of the conflict.
Bob Kitchen, country director for the aid group International Rescue Committee, spoke from the capital, Kinshasa, to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about conditions in the eastern DRC.
"It's very disappointing, to be honest. We were very heartened to see the signing of the peace deal back earlier this year and to see that the ceasefire has been holding since that time with the government and the rebels backing away from each other a little bit. Over the last six months we've seen sporadic but quite localized fighting but, by and large, not too much a significant humanitarian impact. The situation at least wasn't getting worse. But in the last two weeks…the situation has become significantly worse. And it's become worse very, very quickly," he says.
What's more, he says that the fighting is taking place over a wide area. "The fighting started initially in the far east of the province of North Kivu in northeastern DRC around the town of Ruchuro between the rebels that go by the acronym CNDP, who are led by General Laurent Nkunda, and the government forces. But [it] has since spread and it's spread at an alarming and very significant rate. There is now daily fighting again in the east of North Kivu, but also in the north, the west and also southwest of North Kivu. Basically a circle around Goma, the provincial capital," he says.
Kitchen describes the fighting as "multi-fronted, tremendously unpredictable and complex."He says IRC teams, as well as teams from many other aid groups, have been unable to reach those in need. He says some estimates put the number of displaced people from the recent fighting at anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 people. But these figures cannot be confirmed at this time.