The international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need has granted over $65,000 in emergency aid to help refugees fleeing violent conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The charity said the situation in the country’s east has been “explosive” for weeks and many people are fleeing the “unimaginably violent conflicts” between many different political forces and military leaders. Control of the region’s natural resources is a major source of the clashes.
Aid workers have warned that armed groups are setting up new front lines in and around Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province in the country’s east.
The news comes several weeks after thousands of fighters from the M23 rebel group withdrew from the city and began negotiations with the national government.
Tariq Riebl, Oxfam's humanitarian coordinator, told the Associated Press that the city is “typically the last refuge safe haven,” but its safety is now in doubt and it is uncertain where people would go in case of a major conflict.
“This is very, very disconcerting because you have a population of over 1 million people and if war were to break out, we're looking at a horrific situation,” Riebl said.
Pope Benedict XVI has called on the international community to act and has also appealed for aid to refugees.
Bishop Theophile Kaboy of Goma said the Aid to the Church in Need grant will be distributed by religious orders to the needy in refugee camps around Goma to supply them with food, clothing and medical supplies.
The bishop thanked the charity for the assistance and for its novena for peace in the country.
The Dec. 16-24 novena asks Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to “stop this hideous war and finally to enable us to build a pacified, unified and prosperous country.”
The United Nations has received allegations of serious human rights violations by members of the M23 group. These include the killing and injuring of civilians, the rape of women, and the forced recruitment of children.
Congolese military forces are also being blamed for some injustices.
Since May 2012 the rebel movement M23 has engaged in violent attacks and taken control f many villages and towns. It is believed to have backing from neighboring Rwanda. Its troops include hundreds of soldiers who deserted the Congolese army.