|ICRC Activities in Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo: 1994 - 3 February 1999 (International Committee of the Red Cross , 124 p.)|
20 November 1996
ICRC News 96/46
The fighting spread to the entire town, even the night before. We had no choice. We had to leave Bukavu for Walikale and then Kisangani. The ICRC employee left on that fateful day, 30 October. Fleeing the conflict, he became a Zairian displaced person like thousands of others. With a bundle on his head, he stepped up the pace, passing groups of civilians - mainly old people, women and children - all trudging north-west. Every five minutes I passed yet another straggling band of displaced people. He walked six days without stopping, rested one day, and then rejoined the exodus, his only sustenance some sugar cane and a bit of cassava meal given by the elders of the villages along the way. To steer clear of the perils of the main road, he wandered for 18 days from country trails to forest tracks. Finally, on Saturday 16 November, exhausted, he knocked on the door of the ICRC office in Kisangani. He wanted just three things: news about his family which had left Bukavu before him, food, and water.
This ICRC employees story is but one example of what is happening all over Kivu: thousands of Zairian men, women and children are fleeing, and no one knows for sure where they are or what help they need. Their plight is today the ICRCs main concern in Zaire. Since the beginning of the crisis and for the last three weeks the ICRC has attempted to gain access to these victims who have been displaced by the conflict and deprived of any assistance. The head of the Kisangani sub-delegation, Andreas Fuog, believes that in the next few days there will be an influx of displaced Zairian families fleeing Bukavu on foot, but it is difficult to estimate how many. They are expected to arrive soon after the ICRC employee, who was able to move faster because he was young and on his own.
Notwithstanding the multiple difficulties barring access to these thousands of displaced people, the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of the Republic of Zaire have sent a truck loaded with four tonnes of medicines, food and blankets to meet them on the way. It set out from the ICRCs logistic base in Kisangani on 20 November.
The ICRC is taking every possible step in the capital to ascertain the whereabouts of all the victims and set up an emergency assistance programme.