A resumption of fighting in lands in the
eastern Democratic Republic of Congo previously claimed by rebel Hutu militias
has added more than 100,000 newly displaced people to Congo's swollen
itinerant rolls in the past two months.
The vast expanse of territory, coupled with precarious security
arrangements and highly complex logistics of reaching those in need, have
accentuated a humanitarian collapse that threatens not only the refugees, but
also the local families that have generously offered their facilities to house
and assist the less fortunate. In the North Kivu regional capital, Goma, UN High
Commissioner for Refugees public information officer for eastern DRC, David
Nthengwe, says that attacks this
month in eastern towns have resulted in several deaths and in the torching of hundreds
Hutu rebel group has stepped up its reprisal attacks against the civilians in
eastern Congo, literally attacking and burning homes. And on the 17th and 18th
of April, they burned over 300 houses, and at the same time, issuing threats
that they would continue to attack," he said.
of Congo's size and the dimensions of the displacement of more than 800,000
civilians since August of last year, camps have been filled to capacity, and local
aid groups are unable to reach most of the fleeing victims.
we speak about 100,000 people, we are speaking about several villages that
have been affected, where people have been displaced. It's impossible to have in each one of these
places an NGO or a UN agency. Now,
what's happening is that there is a limited presence of the NGO's. We in UNHCR are establishing a presence in
Lubero. But there are a lot more
villages that need the presence of international and UN agencies. But I can assure you that the insecurity, the
impossible roads, the discord logistics, challenges that we face, are making it
more difficult to reach even one-third of the displaced, more than
800,000 people," Nthengwe observed.
has relied on a network of local residents for hosting the newly
dislodged. But David Nthengwe notes that
the system is breaking down because residents themselves are running low on
food and cannot take in additional boarders.
are unable to get to a majority of the people who have been displaced because
of insufficient security. The few that we've been able to reach have only been
able to get limited assistance, relief aid that is not really going anywhere to
greater than just a few thousand families.
Now, we need much more than that, even if the security situation
permits, we need to reach the more than 100,000 people that have been
displaced, who are currently not able to be accessed. UNHCR cannot access them," he pointed out.
shortfall has a general lawlessness among the newly displaced that Nthengwe
says has compounded the security situation and further jeopardized the
effectiveness of local hosting arrangements.
problem is if the people are left to themselves, they will for sure have no
choice. And again, by speaking about
this, we are exposing these people more to danger, because the only forces that
are available are rebel forces, who also have an interest. So the only people they can collaborate with
are the civilians in the villages. And
so it becomes very difficult to talk about some more lawlessness and some more
cooperation between some various armed elements and the civilians. You have a situation in which people are
saying, they will be able to collaborate with an authority that is on the
ground, that is there. And so it becomes
very difficult," he said.
November, when a pro-Tutsi rebel faction, the CNDP, led by General Laurent
Nkunda took Rutshuru, the displaced people of the nearby village of Kiwanja
were forced to flee. Renegade General
Nkunda is believed to be held by authorities in Rwanda. Nkunda is expected to
face trial in Rwanda, with some of the charges against him said to point to war
crimes he allegedly committed. Nkunda's
arrest and a recent disarmament accord reached between his followers and the
DRC armed forces have brought the hope that the dynamics of brutal civilian
displacements to eliminate what had been a major source of violence and
mistreatment may be altered soon. But
David Nthengwe says it is not yet clear what Nkunda's departure may mean for
the displaced victims of Congo's strife.
another very difficult call because there has been some shift in the political
landscape between the CNDP and the Congolese government, who recently signed an
agreement. But the CNDP will become a
part of the Congolese government, meaning that it will become part and parcel
of pacifying the situation in the east.
Nkunda himself is not in the east.
We are only informed that he is in Rwanda. We don't know exactly where he is, whether or
not he has influence on what is going on in the east, we have no idea at all,"
Adding to the confusion and
unpredictability is the recent news that some CNDP loyalists have also resorted
to violence, despite the major pact.
Although he says he is hopeful that the Kinshasa-CNDP reconciliation
will help reduce tensions, Nthengwe says only time will tell whether the
violence in eastern DRC will finally be brought to an end.