Ituri province, in the North
East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been the scene of bloody
inter-ethnic clashes, factional fighting amongst rival rebel militia and
increasing levels of reprisal killings. Civilians have borne the brunt of
this violence from all sides where over 50,000 people have been killed in
Ituri province since the war begun in 1999. In addition, rape, mutilations,
arson, kidnapping are prevalent. Half a million people have been displaced,
the region faces food insecurity and public health diseases like cholera and
typhoid are on the increase.
The situation has begun to
show signs of improvement since the deployment of a French-led EU team to
Bunia, the capital of Ituri in June, 2003. The French team is expected to
leave by September 1st, this year, when UN troops are expected to
take their place. Outside Bunia, however, the situation remains alarming
with the killing of civilians still going on and the population remains
largely inaccessible to humanitarian relief efforts.
It remains to be seen
whether the Security Council of the United Nations will endorse a mandate
that extends the safe zone beyond Bunia – where an estimated 4 million
people remain at risk.