Protestant churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo have issued a “cry of distress” following increased killing and displacement of civilians in the fighting between the army and rebels in the eastern parts of the country.
The churches, speaking as the Church of Christ of Congo (Eglise du Christ au Congo-ECC), said more than 30,000 people had been displaced in North Kivu Province in the three months fighting between the March 23 Movement (M23) and the Congolese army, the FADRC (Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo).
Hundreds of people have been killed, according to various reports, but exact numbers are difficult to ascertain. More than 15,000 have sought refuge in Rwanda and Uganda, according to the churches.
“We denounce these wars and the attempt by the rebels to balkanize our country,” said the Rev. Josue' Bulambo Lembelembe, a vice-president of the Church of Christ in Congo in North Kivu in a statement Aug. 4.
The latest fighting started in April following disagreements over a 2009 accord that integrated the rebels into the national army. Army officers mutinied and formed M23.
Since 1994, an estimated six million people have died in meaningless wars, the churches said. Currently, nearly two million people are displaced in DRC and millions are at the mercy of militias who kill, rape and loot, according to Oxfam, a U.K. charity.
“Help us. Help our population recover peace. We want unity. These populations say no to violence ... [and] the illegal exploitation of our resources,” said Bulambo.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-based Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) issued an action alert which asks people to send emails or calls to U.S. President Barack Obama urging him to address the root cause of the war.
MCC said it is preparing emergency food assistance for 1,000 families in South and North Kivu. It has provided tarpaulins for 400 families and paid school fees for 300 children early this year.
“I was deeply affected by the lack of resources to meet basic human needs, such as food and water,” Ruth Keidel Clemens, MCC U.S program director said in a news release.
“Many of the children appeared to have medical needs with no means to address them. We observed traumatized and exhausted families. These are some of the visible signs of a forgotten war that continues to uproot and kill thousands of people in eastern Congo,” she said.
ECC says it wants to start peace negotiations with the warring factions while calling for an urgent delivery of relief aid.