UN feeds over 18,000 Congolese victims of attacks by Ugandan rebels

31 December 2008

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered emergency supplies for more than 18,000 displaced people in the strife-torn eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who are victims of violence at the hands of the notorious Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered emergency supplies for more than 18,000 displaced people in the strife-torn eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who are victims of violence at the hands of the notorious Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

The aid, delivered both by air and by land, was distributed together with the non-governmental organization (NGO) Caritas in Orientale Province in and around the town of Dungu, which is situated near the DRC's borders with Sudan and Uganda, WFP said in an update today.

The LRA has attacked several communities, killing civilians, burning homes and abducting civilians. With new massacres perpetrated by the LRA having been reported, WFP said the need for humanitarian assistance could jump significantly in the coming weeks.

The rebel group is “attacking just ordinary villages,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told reporters in New York today, adding that protecting civilians is “extremely difficult.”

The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, is already “extremely overstretched” in the eastern DRC and has a limited number of forces in the Dungu area, but is “doing its best under those circumstances” to protect people, he said.

The UN hopes to “get across to the LRA that they will be held accountable,” Mr. Holmes, who also serves as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said.

MONUC said it cannot estimate the number of people killed due to the remoteness and lack of communications in the region, but local and humanitarian officials said nearly 200 people had been killed during the Christmas period alone.

The LRA, which has been fighting Ugandan forces since the 1980s and has since spilled over into Sudan and DRC, are notorious for human rights abuses including the killing and maiming of civilians, and the abduction and recruitment of children as soldiers and sex slaves.

Yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the “appalling atrocities” reportedly committed by LRA in the eastern DRC and southern Sudan, and demanded that they respect all rules of international humanitarian law.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, he called on the Ugandan, DRC and southern Sudanese forces on the ground to coordinate with the humanitarian community and UN missions in the region to ensure the effective delivery of aid to those affected by the LRA attacks.

WFP and its partners seek to reach some 800,000 people in the eastern DRC who have been driven from their homes by fighting in recent months among Government forces (FARDC), the mainly Tutsi rebel group known as the Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP), the mainly Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), among other groups which have repeatedly clashed in various permutations and shifting alliances.

Over half a million people have been uprooted in North Kivu Province since the clashes began escalating in the second half of this year. In both North and South Kivu Provinces, skirmishes are continuing among armed groups, and insecurity and poor road conditions are still thwarting the delivery of aid.

WFP said today that while there is enough food to cover immediate needs in eastern DRC, it foresees a shortfall of 22,000 metric tons over the next six months.

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) urged the international community to not turn a blind eye to the suffering of women and children in the region.

Sexual violence and exploitation have been rampant and taking place without impunity in villages and camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), with women and girls reporting being raped both within sites and when venturing out for firewood, water and food.

In Kibati camp in North Kivu, soldiers abducted and tried to rape two girls, and shot one dead and sent the other fleeing. Both of these girls had taken part in the UNICEF-backed child-friendly space programme.

“UNICEF urges the authorities to protect all children and adults from sexual violence, whether perpetrated by parties to the conflict or civilians,” said Pierrette Vu Thi, a representative for the agency in the DRC.

“Prevention of sexual violence requires the commitment of the Government, armed forces, and groups, and community leaders to reduce the risks that girls and women face and to proactively promote a zero tolerance position toward sexual violence and abuse.”

 

♦ Receive daily updates directly in your inbox - Subscribe here to a topic.
♦ Download the UN News app for your iOS or Android devices.

News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

Ban denounces ‘appalling atrocities’ by Ugandan rebels in DR Congo

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today strongly condemned the “appalling atrocities” reportedly committed by the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and southern Sudan, and demanded that they respect all rules of international humanitarian law.