Having claimed the lives of 5.4 million people since 1998, and displaced 250,000 since August 2008, DR Congo’s crisis rages on. More and more people are getting displaced in the Eastern towns of Kivu, Rutshuru and Nyakakoma. And those who manage to return home from exile in neighboring Uganda with assistance of organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC) are met with mere debris left over from their torched homes. With today’s ongoing resettlement, congestion and disease have become a very big problem. Moreover, violence and insecurity in North and South Kivu are getting worse.
Eastern Congo is mainly suffering at the hands of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR); As recently as April 2009, they attacked and set ablaze two villages of Luofo and nearby Kasiki, killing at least 10 people and destroying at least 260 homes. The FDLR, dominated by Rwandese Hutu natives, has ripped Eastern Congo apart in a continuous fight against the government forces. Adding to their ruins is the Lord’s Resistance Army, a run-away movement from Northern Uganda (whose leader Joseph Kony’s arrest warrant has been issued by the International Criminal Court), which has shifted its operations to the Garamba Forest in North Eastern Congo. They have also continued to abduct, kill and mutilate residents of the occupied region.
Currently, the IRC is one of the most active organizations in North and South Kivu, working to deliver relief supplies like tarps and cooking pots. However, the recent escalation of violence in South Kivu, which drives residents away, is frustrating humanitarian efforts. Besides destroying infrastructure, many displaced people are stuck in far away forests, thereby being inaccessible by rescue teams. Congolese are being evicted, raped and forced to labor for the rebels, as ‘punishment’ for allegedly supporting the government army.
Notably, DR Congo’s current government, under Joseph Kabila, is very weak and not in control of the country. Many mines and forest niches, nationwide, are currently controlled by various rebel groups and war loads who have assumed full control of those areas and even charge taxes. They raid and rape at their discretion, and there seems to be no clear police institution to which victims can report. It will therefore be many years before today’s victims can see justice, if they ever in their lifetime. External support and strengthening of the current government seems to me like a necessary step, considering it has been 11 years of ever deteriorating conflict. The government is not capable of capturing the rebels or keeping them under control; their grip over especially the Eastern part of the country is waning.
However, January 22nd 2009 arrest of Gen Laurent Nkunda, leader of the strongest rebel group (The National Congress for the Defense of the People) in Eastern Congo, by the Rwandese government, is one hopeful step towards cooperation by the East African governments, which will lead to eventual peace. Originally, having claimed to be fighting for the protection of Congolese Tutsis, Gen Nkunda was associated with the interests of the Rwandese Tutsi post genocide government; he was helping them to keep the potentially violent Hutu rebels in Eastern Congo under control. When the Rwandese government allied with their Congolese counterparts against the Hutus however, Nkunda changed sides and caused havoc in Kivu, in a bid to gain power. With the new emergent peace loving attitude in the region, the Congolese and Rwandese governments joined hands to arrest him, in an effort to halt his army’s atrocities and move towards general peace in the region. Gen Nkunda had a stronghold over Kivu, Bunagana, Jomba, Bushaki, among other towns, and was threatening to take over Goma. Accused of violating human rights, his army is accused of having raped, abducted, pillaged villages and recruited child soldiers. In what he termed as protecting Congolese Tutsis of Eastern Congo against Hutu rebels (former executers of the 1994 genocide, now based in Eastern Congo), Gen Nkunda had facilitated what has come to be known as the Kivu conflict.
STAND Education Team.