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Democratic Republic of the Congo: mounting armed violence in the eastern Congo affects tens of thousands of civilians

10-06-2009 News Release 09/117

Kinshasa/Geneva (ICRC) – Fresh outbreaks of armed hostilities in many areas of North and South Kivu are putting additional pressure on entire communities already living in an alarming state of vulnerability.

Many have been forced to flee the all-pervasive violence and people in affected regions are unable to lead anything remotely resembling a normal life. Though due to harvest their crops any time now, they are often unable to get to their land because of armed groups in the vicinity.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is especially concerned about the depredations being committed against civilians. Rape, looting and destruction of vital civilian property have been frequently reported in recent months. These acts are serious violations of international humanitarian law. The parties to the conflict must take urgent measures to protect the life, physical integrity and dignity of the civilian population, particularly women and children. They must take prompt action to shield them from attacks, looting and other forms of violence. 

'' Today, in some parts of the Kivus, people wake up in the morning not knowing whether they will be able to tend their fields,” explained Max Hadorn, head of the ICRC delegation in the country. " They live with the constant fear of having their scant harvest taken from them at gunpoint or being attacked themselves. These people often have first-hand experience of such violence. Their fear is forcing them further and further away from their homes in search of shelter and safety.” 

To help alleviate their plight, staff from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be distributing food and essential household items this week to some 11,000 people, both res ident communities and people who have fled their homes, in Miriki (southern Lubero territory) in North Kivu.

The ICRC is keeping up a dialogue with all parties to the conflict to convince them to put a stop to violations of the law. Under international humanitarian law people not taking direct part in fighting must be protected and allowed access to the basic necessities of life. The ICRC calls on those all those bearing weapons to comply with international humanitarian law so as to preserve the lives and dignity of civilians in the two Kivu provinces.

 
For further information, please contact:
  Inah Kaloga, ICRC Kinshasa, tel. + 243 81 700 85 36
  Olga Miltcheva, ICRC Goma, tel. + 243 81 03 66 812
  Anna Schaaf, ICRC Geneva, tel. + 41 22 730 2271 or + 41 79 217 32 17