The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says it is alarmed by recent reports that Congolese civilians are being tortured and killed by armed groups who are entering camps of internally displaced people, IDPs, in North Kivu province.
The report says since the last quarter of 2011 various militias have been intruding on camps located about 90 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital of Goma. The main camps affected include Nyanzale, Mweso and Birambizo in the Masisi territory. Civilians are constantly being threatened by the militia, and are accused of collaborating with one armed group or another.
Celine Schmitt is a UNHCR spokesperson in Kinshasa, DRC.
“We’ve heard reports for example, in December last year, that seven internally displaced people were beaten to death because they had refused to take part in forced labor for one of the rebel groups in North Kivu. We received reports of IDP’s being tortured and we are alarmed by this situation,” said Schmitt.
She said the violence is affecting humanitarian operations in the region and is preventing workers from assisting and protecting people at the camps.
“For example only eight of the IDP camps out of 31 are accessible to humanitarian workers without military escorts,” said Schmitt, who added workers too are at risk of being attacked because they are going to these areas.
The UNHCR has appealed to provincial authorities to increase security in the area.
“We are working in close cooperation with provincial authorities to make sure they secure the areas and ensure we can access them, and ensure IDP’s are protected,” said Schmitt.
Schmitt said authorities in North Kivu have police securing the camps, however there are only 40 police officers deployed to secure six of the 31 camps in the province. There are almost 79,000 displaced Congolese in North Kivu.