An intensification in fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has left increasing numbers of civilians at risk of attacks, the Red Cross said on Wednesday.
“The abuse of the civilian population we have been seeing in recent months is extremely worrying and contrary to all basic humanitarian principles,” said Franz Rauchenstein, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kinshasa.
Violence has gripped the eastern Kivu provinces of the country for years but the escalation in attacks in the last three months and “the increasingly ethnic character of the recent violence is a cause for serious concern”, the ICRC said in a statement.
“Sometimes, it’s enough to just want to rescue an injured person, considered by one of the warring parties as an enemy, to be in danger,” said Rauchenstein.
The Geneva-based aid agency also condemned the looting of medical centres and a growing number of attacks on medical personnel which deprived “entire communities of medical care, sometimes for as long as several weeks”.
Red Cross volunteers were putting themselves at “considerable risk” by burying victims of clashes, the organisation said, adding that “a minimum level of security” was needed for staff to treat those in need.
Fighting in the mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between government forces and rebels has displaced more than 220,000 people in the region since April, according to UN figures.
More than 57,000 others have fled to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda as a result of the clashes involving mutinous soldiers of the M23 movement which Kinshasa claims is supported by Kigali.
For its part Kigali accuses Democratic Republic of Congo of plotting attacks with Rwandan Hutu rebels also based in the east.
KAMPALA, Aug 8, 2012 (AFP) – Regional leaders on Wednesday ended a meeting on a proposed neutral force for eastern DRC, with no concrete progress but a pledge to meet in a month to discuss reccommendations.