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Fighting in Democratic Republic of Congo Causes Humanitarian Tragedy


Fighting continues on several fronts in North Kivu in the Democratic
Republic of Congo despite a unilateral ceasefire declared by the armed
group, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), on
29 October. The CNDP's offensive in October forced a routed government
army and hundreds of thousands of civilians down roads towards the
provincial capital, Goma.

More than 250,000 people have so far fled the ongoing violence,
bringing the total number of displaced people in the province to at
least 1.2 million and possibly higher. Most are now living in displaced
camps in the narrow belt of land that is still under government control
around Goma.

"A human rights and humanitarian tragedy is underway in North Kivu
province, but the UN Security Council, the European Union and African
Union are sitting on their hands," said Andrew Philip, Amnesty
International's researcher on Democratic Republic of Congo. "They have
so far failed to give the UN peacekeeping force, MONUC, the
reinforcements and equipment it needs to provide effective protection
to civilians."

Conditions in the camps are said to be disastrous. New camps, many
without latrines, potable water and shelters are still springing up.
Some camps are within a few hundred metres of the front lines.

Dozens of cases of cholera have begun to be reported. Humanitarian
agencies are doing their utmost to bring aid to these displaced, but
are close to being overwhelmed by the scale of the suffering.

In the larger part of the province, in areas under armed group control
or otherwise inaccessible to humanitarian aid, tens of thousands of
displaced are unaccounted for and living without any organized

The human rights situation is no less deadly. On the night of 5/6
November, after fierce fighting between the CNDP armed group and
pro-government mayi-mayi militia for control of the town of Kiwanja,
CNDP fighters reportedly went from house to house, searching for
mayi-mayi members they believed were hiding inside.

Witnesses told Amnesty International that large numbers of men,
residents of Kiwanja, mainly aged between 18 and 30, "young fathers and
newly-weds" ("jeunes papas et nouveaux maries"), were taken from their
homes and deliberately killed by the CNDP. Mayi-mayi fighters also
reportedly unlawfully killed civilians they suspected of being CNDP
supporters in and around Kiwanja.

Seventy-two people have so far been buried in the town, according to
reports received by Amnesty International, some apparently killed by
crossfire during the fighting, but many others in its aftermath. The
bodies bear gunshot and stab wounds.

In Goma, on the night of 29/30 October, at least 18 killings were
reported, most apparently victims of armed robbery and looting by
government soldiers retreating through the city.

Amnesty International continues to receive daily reports of other war
crimes and serious human rights abuses. In Masisi and Rutshuru
territories, widespread abductions of children for use as child
fighters, as well as rapes and killings of civilians are ongoing.

The crisis has unleashed a wave of high-level diplomatic activity,
including a regional African Heads of State summit, chaired by the UN
Secretary-General, to address the crisis, and missions by UN and AU
Special Envoys as well as by senior US and EU politicians.

"But these diplomatic coming and goings have so far saved not one life;
have opened up not one road for much-needed humanitarian aid," said
Andrew Philip. "Many governments have expressed support for reinforcing
MONUC, but so far the Security Council has not authorized deployment of
the additional troops and specialist personnel and equipment MONUC says
it needs.

Amnesty International is urging the international community to:

  • make no more excuses.
  • reinforce MONUC now.
  • create safe corridors for humanitarian aid throughout North Kivu.
  • put concerted international pressure on the fighting forces to halt all human rights abuses.

Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.