Brussels – Armed groups clashed on Friday 27 September in the chieftainship of Osso-Banyungu, in the North Kivu territory of Masisi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Attacks against civilians have also taken place in the villages of Butemure, Lwibo, Bikudje, Majengo and Katiri. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) immediately organised mobile clinics in order to provide emergency care to the people affected by these violent acts and is calling on the armed groups to respect the civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Several dozen victims were attacked, including women and children. A number of people are reported wounded. It is difficult to confirm the number of dead, wounded and missing because many villagers fled in the bush out of fear of further attacks.
“I heard the neighbours shouting out that the army was arriving,” said one woman. “I ran to the field to join my husband. But when I got there, he was nowhere to be seen. All I found was his hat and blood-stained tools.” Others told MSF staff that 46 children and three teachers had reportedly been kidnapped after their school was burnt down.
In the course of the armed raid, a bridge was destroyed as inhabitants were crossing it in order to escape. A villager of Lwibo told MSF: “I saw my son fall from the bridge. Armed men used machetes to destroy the last ropes which were holding up the bridge. Just before, on the plateau, they slit men’s throats before throwing them into the water.”
Scale of attacks still being assessed, medical response will adapt
The day after the attack, MSF treated more than 80 patients in the village of Lwibo and dealt with nine survivors of sexual violence. A team also visited the village of Bikudje where two people were wounded and around 30 reported missing. MSF teams are still trying to assess the scale of these attacks and the number of injured men and women in order to adapt their medical responses.
“Several villages are only accessible by foot and we are afraid we’ll arrive there too late. Nonetheless, it already seems clear that acts of violence have been perpetrated against the civilians and we cannot remain silent when confronted with that,” says Bertrand Perrochet, MSF head of mission in DRC. “The armed groups present in the region must respect the civilian populations in accordance with international humanitarian law,” he says.
The Masisi territory is the scene of recurring violence and constant insecurity, which mean people are forced to flee their villages. In August, more than one million internally displaced persons were estimated to be in North Kivu.
Since 2007, MSF supports and provides free basic and specialist healthcare to the general referral hospital of Masisi. Between January and August 2013, MSF treated more than 8,800 patients, performed 1,717 surgical operations and carried out more than 86,000 consultations. MSF also runs mobile clinics in the region to meet the evolving medical needs.