Friday, April 24, 2009

DRC: Thousands of civilians trapped in east as clashes resume

April 24 2009

KINSHASA, (IRIN) - Thousands of civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are trapped amid clashes between government forces and Rwandan rebels.

“The two sides accuse the civilians of helping their enemies. Some houses have been occupied by the army,” said Nestor Yombo, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

He identified the areas in Lubero territory affected by clashes between the DRC army and the Forces democratique pour la liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) as Kanyabayonga, Kirumba, Kayna, Luofu, Kasiki, Miriki, Masika, Kanyatsi, Kalonge, Bingi, among others.

The FDLR presence here follows their forced departure during a joint operation by troops from both DRC and Rwanda in mid-January.

Yombo said that during the heaviest recent fighting on 17 April in Luofu and Kasiki, 16 people were killed, including six children who were burned to death. Hundreds of houses were torched and the local health centre looted.

The DRC army and the UN peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MONUC. are currently setting up a joint operation against the FDLR.

MONUC military spokesman Jean-Paul Dietrich said the FDLR attacked Luofu while peacekeeping troops were deployed in a nearby village.

“They [peacekeepers] reacted as soon as we learnt there was gunfire in Luofo. The FDLR was targeting the army and not civilians and some huts caught fire because of the gunfire,” he said.

Some aid agencies have delivered essential humanitarian supplies to Luofu, said Yombo.

Integrated Regional Information Networks, commonly known as IRIN, acts as a news agency focusing on humanitarian stories in regions that are often forgotten, under-reported, misunderstood or ignored.

The main purpose of this project of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is to create greater awareness and understanding of regional issues and events, and to contribute to better-informed and more effective humanitarian action, media coverage and advocacy.

It is widely used by the humanitarian aid community, academics and others who simply want to know what’s happening in the world that doesn’t always make the headlines.
Editorial independence ensures impartial coverage, analysis and sourcing in news-rich Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, providing a fresh perspective on the tapestry of people and events in these regions of the globe. Every IRIN article carries a disclaimer that it may not reflect the views of the UN.

IRIN came into being in 1995 after the Great Lakes refugee crisis resulting from the 1994 Rwandan Genocide overwhelmed the existing information management systems set up by the humanitarian aid community. With its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, it now covers 82 countries, including Papua New Guinea, since 2008, for more than a million readers. IRIN has regional news desks in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Dakar, Dubai and Bangkok, with liaison offices in New York and Geneva.

The main language is English, with a smaller amount of articles available in French, Swahili and Dari. A limited service in Russian, Arabic and Portuguese is planned.


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