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Congo-Kinshasa: thousands of civilians affected by renewed fighting

11-09-2008 News Release 08/171

Kinshasa / Geneva (ICRC) – After several months of relative calm, the conflict between government troops of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the armed opposition movement of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) has flared up in North Kivu province in the east of the country, with heavy fighting taking place since late August. Clashes have also occurred in South Kivu, particularly affecting the town of Numbi.

" Thousands are feeling the direct effects of this fighting, " said Luc Haas, head of the sub-delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in North Kivu. " And these are people already reeling from months or years of fleeing war and living in danger. "

Poor security conditions have made it difficult for ICRC staff to reach the victims of the latest fighting. However, the organization is working with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to meet their needs, treating the injured and delivering supplies to medical facilities in the combat zone.

The ICRC reminds all the parties to the conflict that they are obliged by international humanitarian law to preserve the lives and health of the civilian population and of people wounded or captured during the fighting. The parties have the special duty to take constant care during military operations to spare civilians and civilian property. There are particular rules to protect women and children. Any act of sexual violence constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law and it is prohibited to recruit children into the armed forces or armed groups.

All parties to conflict are further obliged to spare objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as food and water supplies and livestock. They must allow the passage of relief consignments being sent to the civilian population. The red cross emblem, staff carrying out relief operations and any material or equipment being used for those operations must be respected and protected in all circumstances.

  For further information, please contact:
  Olga Miltcheva, ICRC Goma, tel: + 243 81 03 66 812
  Olivier Martin, ICRC Kinshasa, tel: + 243 81 700 60 60
  Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: + 41 22 730 24 58 or + 41 79 217 32 24