June 3 2004
Tense situation at the SOS Children's Village in Bukavu, DRC
03/06/2004 - The town of Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo was seized by renegade soldiers on Wednesday, following a week of clashes with government troops who have fled into the surrounding hills. Children and employees at the SOS Children's Village in Bukavu have remained unharmed.
The renegade soldiers on Wednesday also took control of the hill upon which the SOS Children's Village in Bukavu is situated, and have asked SOS Mothers and children to remain indoors. Food supplies in the town of Bukavu and at the SOS Children's Village are in short supply.
Some personal belongings were reported stolen from one of the houses at the SOS Children's Village, while soldiers passing by took towels, soap and food from the premises. Representatives of SOS Children's Villages have started making arrangements to obtain supplies from neighbouring Rwanda.
However, other non-governmental and international organisations have been more affected by the looting than SOS Children's Villages. According to United Nations sources in Congo, stores in Bukavu have been plundered as well as several offices of NGOs, international organisations and the houses of dignitaries. The head of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Bukavu told the BBC that 300 tonnes of food were looted.
The BBC also reports that at least 65 people have been killed as a result of a week of clashes and that thousands of people have fled into Rwanda. According to a report from Reuters, the violence is a major blow to the country's fragile peace process.
In Uvira, the site of the other SOS Children's Village in Congo, which is also in the country's volatile east, and some 120 kilometres from Bukavu, the situation remains calm.
SOS Children's Villages began its humanitarian work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the central African country previously known as Zaire, in the late 1980s. The SOS Children's Village in Bukavu was inaugurated in 1989 and provides family houses for approximately 150 children. Since then, a kindergarten, primary school and youth facility were added to the premises. When the civil war flared in 1996, the organisation set up an SOS Medical Clinic that is still in operation today. As a result of this conflict, a second SOS Children's Village was set up in Uvira in 1997 for a further 150 children.