Escalating violence in DR Congo pushes humanitarian situation to crisis point
CAFOD is concerned at the recent escalation in violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
In recent weeks, heavy fighting has been reported between the Congolese army and the rebel group M23 near the eastern town of Goma.
M23 has been accused of systematically destroying villages, looting, raping, and recruiting children into its ranks. The most recent spate of violence began on 14 July in areas around Mutaho, Kanyarucinya, Kibati and in the mountains near Ndosho, causing people to flee for the fifth or sixth time this year.
CAFOD’s Church partner Caritas Goma says that the fighting can still be heard. The clashes have caused panic amongst several villages and many people have moved to neighbouring villages in the north of Goma.
A Caritas Goma spokesperson said:
“The true number of new homeless people from the renewed fighting is not known. Caritas Goma and our partners are continuing rapid assessments to identify the needs of the most vulnerable in communities who find themselves without the basics to live.”
CAFOD has responded with humanitarian aid, providing food and essential household items such as plastic buckets, pots and soap for 1,500 people in the Lake Vert and Bweremana camp.
The resurgence and expansion of other armed groups has led to the “devastation” of communities in the Kivu provinces, according to CAFOD’s Country Representative in DR Congo, Bernard Balibuno.
“There are hundreds of armed men from several militia groups operating in North Kivu,” he said. “It is ordinary people who suffer the most. As control over their communities constantly shifts hands between armed groups, people caught in the middle are the most vulnerable to human rights violations – especially women and children.”
Recent attacks carried out by the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan-led militia group, in the Beni region of North Kivu caused an estimated 66,000 people to flee to safety into Uganda.
In March 2013, the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN peacekeeping operation - MONUSCO - to include a specific Foreign Intervention Brigade, tasked to neutralise armed groups.
However, CAFOD warns that the activities of the Brigade come at a high risk to civilians. The aid agency calls for the Brigade to prioritise the protection of civilians, and effectively monitor human rights abuses.
CAFOD also argues that military operations must form part of a robust political process and wider strategy on peace and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region.
In a recent open letter, the Congolese Bishops’ Conference said: “The protection of the Congolese people must be a priority for the international community, as armed groups continue to destabilise much of the Congolese territory, forcing millions of people to flee their homes.
“We live in daily fear of rape as a weapon of war, killings and human right abuses committed with impunity.”
CAFOD has been working in the DRC since 1995, following the Rwanda genocide, responding to emergencies and helping people to rebuild their lives after the civil war. In 2008, our appeal responding to the Congo Crisis raised more than £2.4 million to support people in the east of the country who had been displaced by an upsurge in fighting.
Nana Anto-Awuakye, Head of World News, CAFOD
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