Democratic Republic of the Congo: Communities in north-central Katanga facing widespread violence
GENEVA, Switzerland, May 15, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Since December of last year, the security situation in the area where the Manono, Mitwaba, Malemba-Nkulu and Pweto territories come together has worsened considerably, provoking regular displacement in north-central Katanga.
Despite a demobilization programme that resulted in the surrender of hundreds of Maï Maï / Bakata Katanga militiamen in autumn 2013, a certain number of armed groups remain active and continue to put up sporadic resistance to the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This keeps people in a state of constant tension. Since January, clashes between certain Pygmy and Luba communities have been steadily increasing, particularly in the area between Kiambi and Nyunzu, north of the "triangle of death." Many communities lead wandering lives, in search not only of safety but also, especially, of basic means of support.
"Currently there are a number of armed groups in the field, which makes it more complicated to interpret the situation and also to bring aid to the people who need it," said Andrea Drury, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Katanga. In addition, problems involving the management of quarries and the lack of jobs – a consequence of "structural" poverty in north-central Katanga – further complicate the situation for the population.
Continuing displacement of civilians
Although it is difficult to give a precise estimate of the number of displaced people in north-central Katanga, population movements continue to be observed throughout the territories of Manono, Mitwaba, Pweto, Moba, Nyunzu and Malemba-Nkulu. Following a new wave of destruction in which a number of villages were set on fire and looted, the inhabitants fled, leaving behind what little they had. Some found refuge in nearby villages and others in the bush, where they are currently without shelter and exposed to the elements.
Because they have only limited access to food and health care, the displaced are surviving only thanks to the solidarity of residents who in many cases themselves experienced displacement at one time and even now survive only with great difficulty.
Immense logistical challenges to reach the needy
The precariousness of the security situation over the past few months and deteriorating road conditions have further complicated the already difficult task of humanitarian organizations seeking to bring aid to the people who need it. Nevertheless, the ICRC recently managed to resume its assistance activities out of its offices in Lubumbashi and Manono. It distributed tarpaulins, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen utensils, buckets, soap, hoes, plastic containers and hygiene items to displaced people in Mpiana and the surrounding area. Logistical problems were overcome thanks to the perseverance of the personnel, who helped transport 4,100 sets of basic household items. Volunteers from the Manono branch of the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo then took part in the distribution, which has so far benefited almost 16,300 displaced people.
Since January, in the rest of Katanga province, the ICRC has:
• carried on with its visits to people held in four prisons, and launched an emergency food assistance operation in the Kipushi district prison;
• continued to reunite children (some of whom had been recruited by armed forces or armed groups active in the province) with their parents, and at a transit centre in Kamina registered around 100 children demobilized in North Kivu (family tracing is currently under way);
• raised awareness of international humanitarian law among 54 senior officers of the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and among 44 commissioned and non-commissioned officers of the Republican Guard;
• provided financial and technical support for the training of 20 emergency workers of the Katanga branch of the Congolese Red Cross in the management of mortal remains;
• reminded armed forces and armed groups of their obligation to spare civilians and to allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid intended for civilians.