Thousands Flee Congo As Armed Conflict Continues
Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Calls on International Community to Intervene
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MASISI, Congo, DEC. 5, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The Office of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) denounced the on-going fighting between rival armed groups in the Congo, resulting in the death of at least 28 people in Masisi since November 29th. The town is located in North Kivu in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
In a statement sent to Fides News Agency, Isaac Kiyaka, SJ, director of the JRS, stated that violent clashes between rebel groups and the Congolese army have been on the rise since August. Several rebel groups have also attacked rival armed groups in the conflict.
"Consequently, thousands of women, children and men have been displaced from their homes In Masisi. In addition, a climate of fear and reciprical mistrust reigns between the two major communities living in the area, the Hundes and the Hutus," the statement read.
According to information collected by JRS, on the night of November 29, members of the Nyatura, a Hutu militia, attacked Kihuma village inhabited by the Hundes, burning down houses and firing gunshots at Hunde villagers. Five people were murdered, including one in a nearby medical center.
During the same day of the attack in Kihuma, young Hunde militiamen immediately reacted by killing 11 Hutu people in the surrounding area of Buabo, including five men who supposedly belonged to the Nyatura militia.
The next day, twelve more people were killed during an armed incursion in various Hutu villages around Lushebere. Several houses were burned down and the population fled the village en masse.
Kiyaka believes that it is an urgent priority for the international community, for the Congolese authorities, for the UN peacekeeping Mission (MONUSCO) and political protagonists in the region to deal with the forgotten conflict in the Masisi region and ensure the protection of the local population.
"We appreciate the on-going diplomatic efforts to stop the violence of the rebels who on November 20 took control of Goma, the capital of North Kivu, causing the flight of tens of thousands of people; the same determination is now necessary to restore peace and security to the population in Masisi, now exhausted by the conflict," Kiyaka stated.