DR Congo Update
6/5/03


Humanitarian Crisis in Northeast Democratic Republic of Congo Continues

 

Ryosuke (Skee) Yagi

The week opened with another spate of fighting and related massacres in the Ituri province of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  Since February, renewed fighting between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups has caused a humanitarian crisis in Ituri, with hundreds of deaths and thousands of refugees pouring into neighboring states.

The most recent massacre was in Tchomia, a town approximately 50km east of Bunia on the coast of Lake Albert.  250-310 Hema villagers were massacred by unknown assailants on May 31.  The UN mission in DRC, MONUC, confirmed that heavy fighting has been occurring in and around the town of Mbingi, north Kivu region, between rebel factions.  The factions accuse each other of initiating the fighting and both claim that the other is violating accords that have been signed to try to end the conflict.  Furthermore, approximately 15,000 refugees fled to Uganda early in the week, and the number is increasing.

Outside intervention has come reluctantly, to the civilians’ loss.  The first sign of interest came in the form of MONUC, a 700-member Uruguayan UN-authorized force that was sent to provide security in Bunia.  Although the force was supplemented by a 700-strong police force sent by Kinshasa (the capital of DRC), the force was soon shown to be hopelessly outnumbered, and are pinned down by guerrillas in their own territory.

In response, the UN recently authorized a French-led “Interim Emergency Multinational Force” to intervene to aid MONUC.  European Union ambassadors approved a 1,400-strong force on Wednesday (6/4) to be sent to Bunia.  Though the force “may deter killing in Bunia … elsewhere in the surrounding countryside the massacres are likely to continue.[1]  French forces began arriving on Friday (6/6) to secure the airport in preparation for more arrivals.
 

The Center will continue to monitor the situation in Ituri, with an eye on North and South Kivus as well.  For now, we must wait to see how the situation in Bunia changes after the application of the international force.


 

[1] BBC News. EU Approves DR Congo Force. 4 June 2003 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/2962948.stm>.

 

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