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.”
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
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