The UN Security Council delegation continues
its tour of Africa this week and today members stopped in Goma in the eastern DRC.
They met with representatives of a coalition of nearly 70 aid and human rights
groups about the humanitarian crisis in the region.
growing concern that a planned new military operation against rebel groups,
such as the FDLR, could worsen problems there. Humanitarian groups say a
similar operation early this year brought reprisal attacks against civilians.
They say hundreds of thousands were displaced, hundreds of women and girls
raped and about 200 civilians killed.
Goma, Marcel Stoessel, OXFAM's head of mission in the DRC, says, "We at Oxfam
are very concerned about the humanitarian fallout of the military operation
against the FDLR. Already a quarter of a million people have been displaced in
the first phase of those operations in North Kivu (Province) and we are picking
up the pieces."
offensive was a joint operation between Congolese forces and the Rwandan army.
Now a military operation is being planned for South Kivu Province, he says,
"where MONUC, the UN military force here, will be also to some degree
involved…. pWe were cautioning about the humanitarian fallout. And we were
cautioning also about the fact that within the Congolese armed forces…where
there are now new elements of militia integrated, there are known human rights
says a number of things can be done to protect civilians. "We could like to see
more presence of MONUC in the field. For this, they do not have enough
resources," he says.
even with limited resources, Stoessel says more can be done. "Especially more
foot patrols amongst the displaced communities. That's what communities relayed
to us. That we want to see those UN soldiers showing their guns basically and
providing some indirect effect of protection," he says.
OXFAM country director adds, "We would like [for] all precautions [to] be taken
in the course of military operations that risks to civilians are minimized. It
is always civilians who are paying the price."
UN Security Council delegation apparently made no mention of the 3,000
additional peacekeepers that were expected in the eastern DRC last year.
has a very vast mandate…. They have a prime mandate to protect civilians. At
the same time, they have a mandate to support the Congolese forces. And there
are some contradictions in that mandate and that was mentioned in the room
today," he says.
whether he feels encouraged following the meeting with Security Council
members, Stoessel says, "We are encouraged that the Security Council took time,
the very limited time that they have, to listen to the humanitarian community.
On the other hand, we are disappointed that they did not go to the actual areas
where current displacement is taking place, where the current humanitarian
disaster is taking place. So they cannot actually see with their own eyes what
we humanitarians have been talking about."
OXFAM says it's difficult to reach all
those who've been displaced in the eastern DRC because of the ongoing rebel
attacks. However, the agency manages, for example, to deliver hundreds of
thousands of liters of water every day to remote areas.