30 May 2007 United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today condemned in the strongest possible terms the recent massacre of civilians in the war-ravaged east in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), calling on those responsible to be brought to justice.
“This latest atrocity underscores once again the need to resolve the problem of armed Congolese and foreign militia operating in the territory of the DRC,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement.
He urged “the Government of the DRC and the international community to work together in creating professional security forces capable of defending the security and human rights of the people of the DRC.”
According to the UN mission in the country, known as MONUC, during the night of 26-27 May, 19 civilians – including women and children – were killed when the villages of Nyabuluze and Muhungu were subject to unprovoked attacks. The massacre was reportedly perpetrated by machete-wielding members of the Rasta and Forces democratiques de liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) militia.
Notes were left on the bodies of their victims, in which the attackers claimed that these atrocities were in reprisals to the operations led against them by the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC), MONUC said.
The mission also said that the perpetrators attempted to raid Chihamba, a third village in the same area, a patrol of UN Pakistani peacekeepers opened fire, forcing them to flee into the nearby forests and preventing further deaths.
Media reports that a dozen abductees have been killed remain unconfirmed, and the UN said that almost 30 people who were injured in the attacks are hospitalized in the towns of Kaniola and Walungu, where families close to the targeted villages have sought refuge.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Ross Mountain, also strongly condemned the brutal attacks, declaring that “the entire humanitarian community is appalled and outraged by these brutal murders and condemns all violence committed against civilians by armed groups.”
On Monday, a rapid response team – comprising staff from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the non-governmental organization the International Rescue Committee – went to the town of Kaniola.
The team investigated the security situation and the magnitude of the population displacement caused by the recent violence, which the mission confirmed has sparked panic among the civilian population.
Not just people from the vicinity of the attacks, but also those far from the immediate area have fled their homes, the team noted.
“Since Sunday night, we are witnessing new population movements every day,” Mr. Mountain said.
He added that ‘night commuting’ is on the rise. “Terrified civilians return to their villages or to their fields on the hills to check on their harvests. Before nightfall, they hurry back to urban centres and spend the night with host families or in community centres,” he said.
Mr. Mountain underscored that it is the responsibility of the Government of the DRC to protect all of its citizens.
Humanitarian agencies in the region expect long-term displacements of people due to the massacre, and stressed the urgent need for medical supplies to help the injured, according to OCHA. More evaluation missions are required to identify the needs of those displaced.