Death threats by airport officials and harassment by local militia are preventing much-needed food aid from reaching thousands of people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo cut off by years of conflict, the World Food Programme said on Thursday. The UN agency has been trying to airlift 1 200 tons of food to Kongolo and Nyunzu, towns short distances west of Kalemie that have been cut off from the outside world by fighting and attacks by rebels, local militia and tribal fighters. But food flights to Kongolo – 250km to the northwest where 25 000 malnourished people have been living in isolation for about two years – have been grounded all week after former rebels running the airport threatened WFP pilots with death, said Dominique Ferretti, head of the WFP office in this small port town on Lake Tanganyika. On Monday when WFP’s Kenyan pilots were delivering cornmeal, beans and vegetable oil to Kongolo airport, members of the Congolese Rally for Democracy, or RCD, one of two former rebel movements now represented in Congo’s new transitional government, demanded that the pilots carry some of their relatives back to Kalemie. “We told them no,” said pilot Ernest Njenga. “So they told us whenever the plane flies back to Kongolo, whoever is aboard will be shot.” Full Story
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