KINSHASA, Congo, JAN. 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Those displaced at the hands of General Laurent Nkunda in eastern Congo are not the nation’s only problem; the north of the country is also facing a humanitarian crisis caused by Ugandan rebels.
As the drama in eastern Congo and the campaign by Nkunda continues to play out — today another leader of the group claims to have ousted the general and taken over the rebels — the Caritas aid agency is simultaneously focusing on the crisis caused further north by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Caritas reported that on Christmas and the days following, the Ugandan LRA killed at least 400 people in a series of massacres. The army has terrorized the region for more than two decades, but recent months have seen an escalation in the crisis. Caritas launched an emergency appeal for the region back in October.
The aid organization is poised to distribute non-food items to 5,000 families Friday. Another 5,000 families will receive subsequent donations. This is a follow-up to aid that was already distributed in mid-December.
Caritas Congo Spokesperson Guy-Marin Kamandji, who is currently in northern Congo said, “What I have heard from survivors is appalling. In spite of the presence of armed forces in some villages, many people are still terrified of more violence. People fled with nothing and Caritas is ensuring the needs are met of those who have been uprooted by the Christmas violence and by the attacks before then.”
Up to 150,000 people are thought to have left their homes to seek safety following violence that has seen rebels burning villages, hacking people to death and kidnapping children to add them to the ranks of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s child soldiers.
“The people [of the Democratic Republic of the Congo] aspire to peace for DRC and its neighbors,” said Father Pierre Cibambo, Caritas Internationalis’ Africa liaison officer. “Democratic institutions should be protected and strengthened, violations of human rights and the criminalization of the economy should not be tolerated. Everybody will benefit from a stable and prosperous DRC.”