In April 2013, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and organisations specialised in protection issues sounded the alarm on Katanga, especially on the « Triangle of Death » — the Territories of Manono, Pweto and Mitwaba — where a climate of terror is raging. What is the situation some 12 months later? Has the protection gap been addressed? Have internal displacements decreased, resulting in more returns? Is the « Triangle of Death » still unstable or has it become a« haven of peace »?
From October 2013 to mid-January 2014, over 1 000 homes and huts in more than 70 villages were burnt down in the territories of Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto — «the Triangle of Death »; tens of people were killed, their property looted and their fields torched, destroying an essential part of their livelihoods.
Humanitarian actors speak of the « scorched earth » policy. During recent months, the « Triangle » saw the birth of dozens of new Mayi-Mayi movements, adding to the human rights violations of the well-known secessionist movement, Bakata Katanga which means « separate Katanga», and the Mayi-Mayi Gédéon group, called after renowned warlord Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga.
Beside this « first triangle », the Territory of Malemba Nkulu which forms a « second triangle » with Manono- Mitwaba, has also become the theatre of Mayi-Mayi atrocities. These combatants, who for the majority hail from northern Katanga, have gradually extended their campaigns of terror southwards, down to the Kambove and Kipushi territories, and engulfing the capital Lubumbashi2 .
The events of 31 December 2013 in Lubumbashi are but one manifestation of the descent into chaos of this province which until recently harboured high hopes for a long-awaited transition from stabilisation to sustainable development. The recent deterioration of the security situation in Katanga was set off by the escape of Gédéon which caused serious havoc in Northern Katanga from 2002-2007- from the high security prison of Kasapa in Lubumbashi in September 2011, on the eve of the Presidential Elections. His escape, which triggered a second phase of conflict, enabled this former warlord to reorganize around the villages of the « Triangle » and to force the majority of inhabitants, among them children, to join his ranks or flee.
The limited capacity and presence of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) is a serious Achilles’ tendon, preventing it from assuring the security of the population. Moreover, many FARDC elements themselves stand accused of committing serious human rights violations against the very people they are supposed to protect; often based on the perceived or real support of civilians to Gédéon.
The people of Katanga -also known as the economic powerhouse of the DRC because of its vast mineral resources which provide a large part of the national budget- deserve to be given more political and security attention in order to reverse the current spiral of violence causing tensions among communities, prolonging a humanitarian crisis and undermining any prospect of socio-economic development.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.