says the conflict in the eastern DRC has disrupted the lives of more than half
the population in North Kivu Province. That disruption includes displacement,
attacks by various armed groups and widespread rape and other forms of sexual
Hensmans, director of the Belgium francophone section of Amnesty International,
just returned to Brussels after traveling through the eastern DRC. He spoke to
VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about conditions there and
gave the latest figures from MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in the country.
He describes the numbers as "quite terrible."
says, "One in four inhabitants in K (North) Kivu (Province) are internally
displaced persons. They say that 70 percent of the inhabitants in Kivu are
IDPs, internally displaced persons, or hosting IDPs. That shows how important
the problem is now. They say there are around 1,350,000 people that are
displaced in Kivu… And it's getting more and more difficult to help them. The
World Food Program is saying that it costs $30 per day for each IDP, compared
to $22 last year because of the financial crisis."
says Amnesty's staff spoke with IDPs, humanitarian workers, MONUC officials and
soldiers and even combatants. "In 20 years of work for Amnesty I've never seen
something so terrible."
compares it to 1994 Rwanda, calling it a "silent genocide," but is quick to
explain that is not an official term or explanation being applied to the
region. "Genocide is not the appropriate term, but in terms of the number of
people who have been killed. Some people are talking about more than five
million people killed since a few years. It's not technically a genocide, but
what's happening there is that all the population is targeted by all the groups.
All the groups have been responsible for human rights violations," he says.
says that many more people are hiding in the bush than living in IDP camps.
Children are being forced to serve as child soldiers and many women are
brutally raped and are warned not to seek help.
woman who is raped can get some medicines in 72 hours in order to alleviate
(prevent infection) HIV/AIDS. And we got information from humanitarian workers
saying that soldiers, after having raped women, told them not to go to these
centers to get this medicine, otherwise they would kill them," he says.
Hensmans says that an extra 3,000
MONUC troops approved by the UN Security Council, will not be enough to solve
the problem. He says that the Congolese army needs to be paid and reformed,
because many soldiers run away from the fighting.