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DR Congo: Too Soon To Walk Away

Policy recommendations
  • The United States, the European Union, and other key donor governments must engage more with the Congolese government to foster commitment to protecting its own citizens through effective reforms of the security and justice sectors.
  • Given the size and complexity of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the DRC and the potential instability of the upcoming elections, there should be a stand-alone UN Humanitarian Coordinator position.
  • UNHCR must reapportion its resources and attention to better assist and protect internally displaced Congolese, given consistently high levels of displacement and fewer returning refugees.
  • The UN Humanitarian Coordinator must direct the protection cluster to prepare a contingency plan addressing possible destabilization resulting from upcoming elections. Specific approaches for enhanced protection of civilians, and IDPs in particular, must be developed in this context.
  • The U.S. should continue its financial support for increased UNHCR protection staffing, and other donors should emulate these efforts.
  • The U.S. and other key donor governments should maintain support for both humanitarian programming on sexual violence and the Congolese government’s National Gender-Based Violence Strategy.
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International interest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is waning at a time when hundreds of thousands of Congolese continue to be displaced by ongoing violence. This shift risks squandering the substantial investments made towards peace and stability in the DRC and leaves internally displaced people vulnerable to further violence and suffering. Continued political and financial support by the U.S. and other donor governments is still essential to address both the root causes of the problem and emergency needs – all the more so in the context of November’s elections.

Donor governments should press for key changes to help protect people from harm and to reduce the appalling gaps in assistance for displaced people. Pressuring the Congolese government for effective reforms of the security sector will decrease the growing insecurity caused by efforts to reconfigure the Congolese national army. Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people can receive more effective assistance and protection if humanitarian funding is increased and if UNHCR reallocates its resources appropriately. Finally, important efforts to address horrific incidents of sexual violence must receive continued support, as should wider protection needs of women and communities.

CONCLUSION

Congolese citizens in the Kivus, especially the one million people displaced from their homes, remain at great risk, whether it be from rape or other forms of violence. The continued gaps in assistance are making the situation even worse. The answer to the seemingly endless insecurity, however, is a fundamental and thorough reform of the Congolese military, the FARDC. Similarly, reform of the justice sector is vital to end the culture of impunity that allows free reign to perpetrators of sexual and other forms of violence. In the meantime, the humanitarian community must refocus its efforts on protecting internally displaced people and consolidating its progress towards preventing and responding to sexual violence. Despite the ongoing challenges, the DR Congo has seen some progress towards stability in the past decade. As the next round of democratic elections approaches, now is the time to continue to help the Congolese people move forward into a more peaceful era.

Melanie Teff and Peter Orr assessed the situation for internally displaced people in eastern Congo in June 2011.

Download the entire field report.