Democratic Republic of Congo’s copper-rich Katanga province is in an “acute humanitarian crisis” amid resurgent fighting between local militias and the army, the United Nations humanitarian agency said.
Civilians have been subject to “deliberate attacks, assassinations, burning of villages, child recruitment, rapes, and illegal taxation,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in an e-mailed report today. The number of displaced people in the southeastern province has increased sixfold since January 2012 to 316,000, it said.
“Katanga is turning into a province that requires the same amount of attention as the Kivus,” two provinces where nearly 1.8 million people have been displaced amid attacks by armed groups, the report said. “The weak presence of Congolese police and UN peacekeepers does not bode well for a rapid improvement in terms of protection.”
The insecurity is most extreme between the towns of Manono, Pweto and Mitwaba in central Katanga, where two groups, known as Mai Mai Gedeon and Kata Katanga, prey on the population and battle the army, OCHA said. The humanitarian effects of the fighting have spread to half the province’s 22 territories, it said.
The area around the towns is rich in tin ore and coltan, an ore used in electronics, and has become increasingly unstable since September 2011, when Gedeon Kyungu Mutanga, the leader of the Mai Mai Gedeon group, escaped from prison. Kyungu was sentenced to death in 2009 for crimes committed as the head of a militia in the same region between 2003 and 2006, according to a 2010 UN report documenting human rights violations during Congo’s wars, which officially ended in 2003.
Congo produces about 3 percent of the world’s copper and nearly half its cobalt, most of which comes from Katanga.
To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Kavanagh in Kinshasa on Mkavanagh9@bloomberg.net.
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