DRC: Civilians Under Attack in Masisi Territory

Several dozen civilians were attacked amid recent clashes between armed groups in the Masisi territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province.

DRC 2013 © MSF

The village of Lwibo lies in ruin after armed groups attacked

BRUSSELS/NEW YORK, OCTOBER 1, 2013—Several dozen civilians were attacked amid recent clashes between armed groups in the Masisi territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

MSF immediately organized mobile clinics to provide emergency care to survivors and is calling on the armed groups not to attack civilians.

"Several villages are only accessible by foot and we are afraid we'll arrive there too late," said Bertrand Perrochet, MSF head of mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "Nonetheless, it already seems clear that acts of violence have been perpetrated against the civilians and we cannot remain silent when confronted with that. The armed groups present in the region must respect the civilian populations in accordance with international humanitarian law."

Armed groups clashed on Sept. 27 in the chieftainship of Osso-Banyungu, and attacks against civilians took place in the villages of Butemure, Lwibo, Bikudje, Majengo, and Katiri. It is difficult to confirm the number of dead, wounded, and missing because many villagers fled into the bush out of fear of further attacks.

"I heard the neighbors shouting out that the army was arriving," one survivor said. "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."

Those attacked included women and children. Survivors said that 46 children and three teachers were kidnapped after their school was burned down.

In the course of an armed raid, a bridge was destroyed as people were fleeing across it. A villager from Lwibo said, "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."

The day after the attack, MSF treated more than 80 patients in the village of Lwibo, including nine victims of sexual violence. An MSF team also visited the village of Bikudje where two people were wounded and about 30 were reportedly missing.

MSF teams are still trying to assess the scale of these attacks and the number of injured people in order to adapt their medical responses.

Recurring violence and insecurity frequently force people to flee their homes in Masisi territory. More than one million people are estimated to be displaced in North Kivu.

Since 2007, MSF supports and provides free primary and secondary health care at 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 needs.