Ituri, DRC: The other victims of violence - humanitarian workers

Adding to the unacceptable violence facing the population on a daily basis is the problem of humanitarian aid that is largely inadequate in quality and insufficient in coverage. The minimal amount of assistance that is provided has been scaled back again following the violence that has directly affected humanitarian workers for years — and just recently two MSF volunteers.

In June, a French logistician and a Congolese driver/interpreter were kidnapped in the Djugu region. Armed men stopped the car and, after violently beating the two aid workers, kidnapped them at gunpoint.

The violent kidnapping of our colleagues by individuals who are familiar with our activities, and who had assured us of relative safety in their zones, is unacceptable.

For ten days, their detention was punctuated with death threats, mock executions, acts of torture, and attacks on their physical and psychological integrity.

"(...) We were abducted in very violent conditions, for reasons we still today do not comprehend. Violence was continuously present during those 10 days. It turned against us, it was present amongst members of the armed group itself, but most of all it was turned against the population. Against civilians we encountered during our long walk through the hills or in villages. In these villages, our abductors "had a rest " (by ousting the owners), "ate" (by stealing the little food the people had), "relaxed" (by raping girls in their homes). We walked for hours, during whole nights without drinking and eating, with bare feet and with our hands tied in our backs.

"We slept outside on the bare ground sometimes in the rain.

"Every telephone contact was preceded by a session of blows, "You see this heap of green branches, we'll break them all on the back". I understood later that it was so that I would be in "condition" and say only what they wanted.

"Having felt the cold and bitter taste of the steel gun the "leader" would put in my mouth, having been subjected to numerous threats and mock executions, I know today what the population of this part of Congo is going through. I shudder to think of the life the 100,000 displaced living outside of Bunia endure every day, without access to care, to food, with very few water..." Hostage in Ituri, June 2 to 11, 2005.

As a result, the minimum amount of assistance that was being provided to displaced populations living in camps around Bunia has been halted. Since, MSF has been wrestling with the inability to continue providing the minimal amount of aid tolerated in times of intense crisis. Meanwhile, the civilian population has been trying to survive in entrenched camps while remaining dependent on completely inadequate outside assistance. Civilians have been abandoned without any real possibility of surviving on their own.