Congo: civilians flee from violence – eyewitness report

Independent Catholic News

 The situation of civilians caught in the conflict in Kivu is becoming increasingly desperate, according to eyewitness reports received by the Missionary News Service this morning. “People are fleeing to the woods for days; without water, food or clothes, people are doing everything possible to avoid the armed gangs and even insubordinate army soldiers who loot their homes”, one source said. “ The number of people driven from their homes by the violence that began last February in the east stands at some 800,000, though it seems nobody could care less. Despite the clamour prompted by the Congo-Rwandan offensive against the CNDP and the capture of dissident general Laurent Nkunda, civilians are having to endure even worse conditions” –  a person in Goma in North Kivu, told MISNA. 

 The source said that the ‘Kimia II’ offensive, launched by the government about a month ago to expel the Rwandan FDLR guerrillas in some cases had made things worse, creating widespread insecurity. 

MISNA sources said that the rebels are operating in small units of no more than a dozen men, generating a constant state of insecurity and making it impossible to protect the smallest and most remote villages. 

Other eyewitnesses have revealed to Radio Okapi in the past weeks that men ‘in uniform’ have set homes afire in some villages, after extorting money and other items. Such episodes were witnessed two days ago in Kisharo, Nyamilima area, about 100 km northeast of Goma, where the former rebels, recently integrated in the regular armed forces, have attacked a village killing four people and wounding several others. 

The violence has fueled panic, and schools have remained closed while people stay in their homes. “Not only are the attacks against the people, the attacks are against aid workers as well, which makes it all the more difficult to deliver aid to the inhabitants”, one person said.

 The villages of Lubero, Muhol, Bulofwa, Kyondo, Kanyabayonga and Kaleghe were also not spared by the violence, “and this climate of insecurity fuels the people’s resentment toward those like the military and the MONUC mission, who should be ensuring their safety”, said the source.

The issue of refugees, and their increasing number, adds to the problem; in Kalehe, for instance, entire families have come from Bunyakiri, Katasomwa, Bulambira and Ziralo. “Since they have arrived, the price of food has doubled –said a local inhabitant to the press, adding that what is produced in their fields is not enough for all, “it is not even enough for the residents. Without the help from NGOs and aid workers there would not be enough food for all. The situation is becoming unsustainable”. 

Source: MISNA