Fourteen humanitarian workers kidnapped in eastern Congo

November 3, 2015, 3:42pm

Civilians displaced by fighting near Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The United Nations on Monday confirmed that 14 humanitarian workers have been kidnapped in eastern Congo. Picture: REUTERS/THOMAS MUKOYA

By Business Day Live

KINSHASA — Fourteen humanitarian workers have been kidnapped in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the latest in a spate of hostage-takings in the region, the United Nations (UN) and local activists said on Monday.

The employees of a Congolese nongovernmental organisation were abducted on Sunday in the Rutshuru region in North Kivu province, the UN mission in Congo’s humanitarian co-ordinator, Mamadou Diallo, said in a statement.

"This kidnapping confirms the fragile security situation in which the various humanitarian organisations work and whose victims are the local population," Mr Diallo said. "I call for the liberation of these humanitarian workers."

Mr Diallo did not say what organisation the workers belonged to or who is believed to be responsible for the attack.

An FDLR spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

Eastern Congo was ravaged by two wars between 1996 and 2003 that killed millions of people, most dying from hunger and disease, and the region remains plagued by dozens of armed groups who compete over reserves of gold, tin and tantalum.

Reports on Sunday quoted Rural Development Centre head Paul Muhasa as saying 12 researchers and two drivers were kidnapped in Rutshuru. They were conducting research into food security in the region. The Rural Development Centre trains local farmers in Congo with the help of the UN World Food Programme.

A local activist group, the Centre of Study for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights, said in a statement on Monday that the aid workers were taken in the town of Makoka, about 100km northeast of the provincial capital Goma, by a dozen armed men.

The statement blamed the attack on rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu militia based in eastern Congo since fleeing the neighbouring country after the 1994 genocide.

Congo’s army launched operations against the FDLR in February, prompting retaliatory attacks against Congolese soldiers and civilians.

Security in Rutshuru, the site of several previous insurgencies, has deteriorated this year, with dozens kidnapped by armed militias and criminal gangs.