A senior United Nations official is on a week-long visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for talks with Government and aid officials amid safety concerns following the murder of five non-governmental organization (NGO) staff in the deadliest such assault in the vast country.
The Director of the of the Coordination and Response Division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, who arrived in Kinshasa, the capital, on Monday, will discuss the situation with the Congolese authorities, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the country, UN agencies and national and international NGOs.
The five NGO education workers along with two civilians were killed in Malinda, South Kivu province, in the strife-torn east of DRC in what OCHA has said is the deadliest assault on aid workers ever recorded in the country. It was the latest in a growing number of attacks in recent weeks targeting humanitarian workers and impeding the delivery of vital aid.
Ranging from extortion to hostage taking to using humanitarian vehicles to carry military equipment, the attacks are linked to the persistent fighting in eastern DRC and have aroused a growing sense of vulnerability in humanitarian organizations.
Since August there have been 25 such incidents in North Kivu province and 15 in South Kivu. This year, the two provinces have suffered nearly 140 such attacks. During his visit Mr. Ging will visit North Kivu and Oriental provinces.
UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova today called on the Government to investigate the murders and take the strongest possible measures to protect the local people and those working to bring them services to which they are entitled.
“As the head of the United Nations agency in charge of education, I mourn the death of five people committed to bringing education to such a difficult environment,” she said in a statement.
Since 1999 and under various names, the UN has maintained a peacekeeping mission of up to nearly 20,000 uniformed personnel in the DRC to oversee country’s emergence from years of civil war and factional chaos, culminating most notably in 2006 with the first democratic elections in over four decades.
A measure of stability has returned much of to the country, which is as large as Western Europe, but fighting has continued sporadically in the east including the Kivus, where the bulk of the UN mission, currently known as MONUSCO, is deployed.