Violence, killings and kidnappings at the hands of fighters from rebel group Cooperative for Development of the Congo (CODECO) are a daily occurrence, affecting civilian populations, internally displaced people (IDPs), and humanitarian personnel.
Attacks from CODECO have killed hundreds of people and forced thousands to flee their homes since 2017, and numbers have substantially increased over the past year.
Humanitarian organisations – including DRC – have been forced to reduce or suspend our activities in order to protect staff.
“The suspension of essential services such as protection, shelter and access to food will worsen what is already one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world," warns Martine Villeneuve, DRC DR Congo Country Director.
Over 1.5 million people are currently displaced in Ituri, and half the population faces food insecurity.
“Humanitarian actors must be enabled to access people of concern without fearing for their own safety. Humanitarian principles must be upheld,” she adds.
Martine Villeneuve, DRC DR Congo Country Director
In an effort by the military and police to combat armed groups, Ituri and the neighbouring province of North Kivu have been governed under a 'state of siege' since 6 May 2021. Still, over 1,000 civilians have been killed since May 2021. 107 bodies were recently found in two villages after CODECO attacks targeting internally displaced people at the end of November.
Unfortunately, the tactics employed by the Congolese military, sometimes resorting to bombings by helicopter, make it difficult to distinguish between civilians and armed groups, increasing the numbers of civilian casualties.
DRC Danish Refugee Council is extremely concerned about the current situation, and in the strongest terms calls on all involved parties to uphold respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, and to protect civilians and humanitarian workers from violence in Ituri and eastern DR Congo more broadly.
The international community must seek to support DR Congo in finding political and financial solutions to the conflict.