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Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC staff held by armed group in South Kivu

13-04-2010 News Release 10/62

Geneva/Kinshasa (ICRC) – A Swiss delegate and seven Congolese staff members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been held since 9 April in the vicinity of Fizi by Mai Mai Yakutumba, an armed group operating in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The staff were seized around 2 p.m. local time after completing an assessment of the needs of displaced people in the area.

" We demand that the group holding our personnel release them as quickly as possible, " said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the ICRC delegation in the country. " We are in contact with our colleagues, and their families have been briefed on the situation. "

The South Kivu area where the ICRC staff are being held has been the scene of violent clashes which have resulted in the displacement of thousands of civilians in recent months. " It is in order to protect and assist armed-conflict victims that we have been carrying out our activities in the area, " said Mr Rauchenstein. " We continue to insist that the strictly neutral, impartial and humanitarian nature of our work be recognized, and that our colleagues be able to return to their loved ones soon. "

The ICRC maintains a permanent presence in South Kivu province in Bukavu, Uvira, Marungu and Fizi. Access is difficult owing to the remoteness of the region, logistical challenges and security conditions.

On the very day that the staff were seized, other ICRC staff officially handed over 72 water points in Fizi that had been upgraded or newly built over the last two years. Over 20,000 people living in or near Fizi will have better access to water thanks to these facilities.

  For further information, please contact:
  Inah Kaloga, ICRC Kinshasa, tel: +243 81 700 85 36
  Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17