January 22, 2009
— As Rwanda and DRC join forces against rebel militias, protection of civilians must be the priority, warns humanitarian agency World Vision.
Yesterday thousands of Rwandan troops entered eastern Congo as part of a joint military offensive with the Congolese army against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a mainly Hutu group, accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
“Imminent violence may mean more deaths and displacement for people affected by decades of war,” said emergency director for World Vision east DRC Bekele Hankebo.
The people of eastern DRC have faced brutal conflict, rape, multiple displacements, and recruitment into armed groups for more than a decade; their safety and protection must now come first, said the agency.
“Tens of thousands of people remain displaced from their homes,” said Hankebo. “Any further outbreaks of violence threaten to push vulnerable families into an even more vulnerable and dangerous position.”
World Vision continues to call on all parties to implement and maintain an immediate ceasefire. The only lasting solution for this conflict is a negotiated settlement, not a military solution, the agency said.
“The displaced families we’re working with want peace,” said Hankebo. “They want to return to their homes, plant crops and resume normal life.”
World Vision calls on all parties to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, especially related to the protection of civilians. It is imperative that MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, acts robustly and proactively under its new mandate, taking all possible measures to protect civilians threatened by looming military offensives.
World Vision continues to work with communities to help establish greater security and safety for the most vulnerable.
The agency is working with displaced people living in camps to develop early warning systems to help mitigate against risks of violence. It is teaching women to build fuel-efficient stoves that require fewer dangerous trips outside the camp to collect firewood and forming community-based protection committees, which monitor violence in camps and escort women in activities that expose them to threats.
ENDWorld Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, visit www.worldvision.org/press.