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DRC Conflict Worsens, Oxfam Warns

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 7 2012 (IPS) - Millions of people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are under siege as they get killed, kidnapped and abused –as the rebel group M23 takes control of the area.

Elodie Martel, Oxfam’s Associate Country Director, said:“We have reached a new depth of misery in Congo’s conflict when massacres go virtually unnoticed.”

The organization reports that the widespread lawlessness is destabilizing the two eastern provinces of North and South Kivu and close to half million people have left their homes in the past four months.

According to Andrej Mahecic , spokesperson for  the U.N. Refugee Agency, more than 470,000 Congolese have been uprooted since April – 220,000 in North Kivu and 200,000 in South Kivu –  while more than 51,000 fled to neighbouring Uganda (31,600) and Rwanda (19,400.)

“Vast swathes of the east have descended into chaos with no government or security presence. People have been abandoned to killing, rape, looting and extortion. They are fleeing for their lives and very little is being done to help,” said Oxfam’s Martel.

Regional leaders are meeting during August 7-8  in Kampala, Uganda at the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region to try to reach agreement on the resolution of the conflict.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “I reiterate my call to key international stakeholders to provide enhanced and sustained support to the Congolese authorities for Security Sector Reform and other key endeavours.”

Ban also pointed out the importance of implementing the Pact on Peace, Security and Development to ensure the regional stability. That accord was agreed by 11 countries on 2007 setting out four crucial areas of cooperation in order to reach peace in the Great Lakes area. Those 4 points are:  security, democracy and governance, economic development, and humanitarian and social welfare.

“I condemn the violence and serious human rights violations committed by the M23,” said Ban, “as well as other armed groups, against civilians, including acts of sexual violence, summary executions, and the recruitment of children as combatants.”

The rebel group M23 started with mutiny within the Government Army in April 2012. Since then the hundreds of people have been killed, many more have left their homes and the humanitarian situation is a “catastrophe” according to Oxfam.

The international organization reports that cholera is a risk in displaced camps, since January 2012 there has been more than 20,000 cases of this disease and 481 reported deaths.

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