Humanitarian response in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) should broaden beyond emergency needs to encompass underlying dynamics of conflict, according to a report by the international refugee NGO Norwegian Refugee Council.
“The chronic and extreme violence in the eastern DRC poses a stark challenge to traditional humanitarian ‘urgent response mode’ approaches. The humanitarian service machinery has become a virtually permanent fixture in the region, serving victims of multiple displacements and repeating cycles of violence for two decades… Protection in this conflict cannot be achieved solely by providing services to victims,” says the report.
For instance, it argues that in the Kivus, which have borne the brunt of the conflict, every community is at constant risk of conflict and displacement “until military and armed-group violence against civilians is brought under control.”
“There are no ‘durable solutions’ here without a change in the level of peace and stability, and changes in the destructive behaviour of the armed parties towards civilians,” the report noted.
Many puzzle pieces
In an interview with IRIN, Kyung wa-Kang, the deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), called for a “clear commitment from both political leaders and the international community to improve governance” and help bring “security and help achieve human dignity in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the wider Great Lakes region.”
The Congolese government has been accused of only half-heartedly implementing peace agreements with rebel groups.
“Rather than effectively implementing the 23 March 2009 peace agreement signed by the government and the CNDP (National Council for the Defence of the People), the Congolese authorities have instead only feigned the integration of the CNDP into political institutions, and likewise the group appears to have only pretended to integrate into the Congolese army,” International Crisis Group, global think-tank, said in an October briefing.
“The peace agreements that have been signed between the government and rebel groups provides for a real opportunity to push forward the agenda for lasting peace, but each party must be serious in ensuring it works and they do their part in making this fruitful,” Kang added.
In February, 11 leaders signed a UN-brokered peace accord aimed at ending the conflict in DRC and bringing peace to the wider Great Lakes region. “The agreement gives the people of eastern DRC their best chance in many years for peace, human rights and economic development,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said during his recent visit to the region.
In March, the UN Security Council passed a resolution setting up the first-ever UN peacekeeping brigade, whose mandate would include battling rebel groups in DRC and monitoring an arms embargo along with a panel of UN experts. It will observe and report on the flows of military personnel, weapons and equipment across the border of eastern Congo, including by surveillance aided by unmanned aerial systems.
Kang noted to IRIN, “Bringing lasting peace in the DRC will involve deepening democracy” and engaging all sides “involved the conflict”, saying the recently proposed 3,000-strong UN-backed intervention brigade should be seen only as “a part of a wider puzzle.”
The long-running conflicts in eastern parts of DRC have forced more than two million people to flee their homes. Thousands more have become victims of violence and abuse. In the last six months, the number of those displaced inside DRC increased by more than 150,000 people, with most of the displacements being in North Kivu Province. The insecurity has further compelled an estimated 90,000 to flee into Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda over the same period, according to OCHA.
The international community, the NRC report argues, “has invested significantly in initiatives aimed at documenting protection needs - information gathering and early warning systems,” something OCHA’s Kang says might be threatened by the increasing crises in places like Syria, which continue to “suck donor funding and receive greater humanitarian attention.”