Kisangani: Terror reigns on the civil population

Press release Bruxelles/Kisangani, May 9 2000 - This morning (Tuesday April 9), a local radio advised the population of Kisangani to leave the downtown area and seek refuge. The teams of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), active in the area with ten expatriates, fear the worst: both new bombardments and new civil victims. Since the most recent conflicts, which started last Friday between Rwandan and Ugandan troops, the civil population has been living in a climate of terror. MSF calls on the international community to implement all means necessary to protect this population, including the urgent deployment of the soldiers of the Mission of Observation of the United Nations in Congo (Monuc), in accordance with the agreements of Lusaka - of which both Uganda and Rwanda are signatories. Last Friday and Saturday, the two warring parties released between 300 and 400 bombs within 24 hours, causing serious damage in various places in the city and creating panic within the civil population searching for refuge. The MSF teams also had to take refuge. In addition, an MSF building was seriously damaged. On Sunday morning, taking advantage of a lull in the bombardments, a joint MSF/CICR team (International Committee of the Red Cross) managed to visit 41 health centres as well as the four general hospitals in Kisangani. This team confirmed 28 deaths (27 civilians and one soldier) and counted 159 wounded - 155 civil and four soldiers. The engagements between Ugandan and Rwandan troops began last Friday. As a witness of the declining situation within Kisangani, MSF denounces a situation in which a whole population is hostage to a war. The international community must ensure the protection of the populations by all possible means and put pressure on the principal actors in the conflict. MSF welcomes the agreement made between the Ugandan and Rwandan authorities - under the mediation of Ambassador Holbrooke and delegation - on the withdrawal of the belligerents and the engagement of a United Nations peacekeeping force within Kisangani. But MSF remains concerned with the risk of a renewed loss of human lives if Monuc is again slow to be deployed. MSF also requires, beyond all the diplomatic negotiations, the implementation of urgent and effective resolutions by the Security Council in favour of the population of Kisangani.

MSF began its activities in the DRC in 1985 and currently has 27 expatriates and 450 national staff. In the eastern province, MSF has restarted medical activities in 13 health zones, which serviced approximately two million people, that were suspended by the war as well as intervening in the event of urgencies. In the town of Kisangani, MSF supports 15 nutritional centers in order to mitigate the very high malnutrition levels within the population.