22 December 2008
Humanitarian access to DRC displaced hindered by attacks

Amnesty International research mission to DRC and Uganda

© Amnesty International

Thousands of Congolese people fled across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border into Uganda in late November. An Amnesty International research team was present, recording their stories.  

Many of those fleeing had been on the road for days, carrying what few possessions they had been able to gather in the moments before an armed group attack swept down on their towns and villages.

Many told the research team how they had been robbed by marauding gunmen on the roads leading to the border inside DRC. Others witnessed abductions of civilians by armed group fighters, usually to serve as porters to carry looted goods.

A large proportion of those fleeing were children, many of whom had become separated from their parents during their flight. Around 30,000 have so far sought refuge in Uganda.   

Elisa, 18 and heavily pregnant, told Amnesty International that her husband had been shot dead a few metres from their home in Kiwanja by armed group fighters who had then stolen his motorbike.

"We had only been married for six months," she said. She fled in fear and spent four days hiding in the bush before returning home to bury her husband. Then she took the road to Uganda with her elderly mother-in-law, walking for more than 50km.

Within DRC, tens of thousands of displaced remain beyond humanitarian assistance because of continuing insecurity. These people are often without adequate shelter, food supplies, water or sanitation.  More than 10,000 cases of cholera have now been reported in the province.

Across North Kivu, many people are too traumatized and afraid to go into their fields to collect food, deepening food insecurity and levels of malnutrition in the province. Amnesty International has received numerous reports of soldiers and armed group members pillaging food stores and stealing crops. Army soldiers and armed group fighters have also deliberately looted food aid after humanitarian distribution.

Humanitarian workers, braving the roads without adequate protection, are acutely vulnerable to acts of violence and harassment. On 15 December, a Congolese humanitarian worker was killed by unidentified gunmen in Rutshuru territory.

His death brings to more than 100 the number of attacks, vehicle hijacking, shooting and other acts of intimidation against humanitarian workers, vehicles or facilities in North-Kivu since the beginning of 2008.

Amnesty International is appealing to all parties to the conflict:

  • to allow unconditional and unhindered humanitarian access to displaced and vulnerable populations
  • to immediately end all attacks against humanitarian personnel and property, and
  • to halt the systematic looting of food supplies.
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End attacks against humanitarian workers

I am writing to you to express my deep concern about the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo where hundreds of thousands of people have fled and millions have died in the past ten years.
I am very concerned that humanitarian workers, who risk their own safety to bring emergency aid to displaced and vulnerable people, have been victims of numerous acts of violence and harassment. There have been more than 100 attacks, vehicle hijackings, shootings and other acts of intimidation against humanitarian workers, vehicles and facilities in North Kivu since the beginning of 2008, including the killing of a Congolese humanitarian worker by unidentified gunmen on 15 December in Rutshuru territory.
Government and armed group forces have also been responsible for the looting of humanitarian supplies as well as acts of violence and intimidation against displaced people.
I am appealing to all you to ensure your forces allow unconditional and unhindered humanitarian access to all displaced and vulnerable populations in North Kivu. I urge you to end immediately all attacks against humanitarian personnel and property and to halt the frequent looting of food and other humanitarian supplies.

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