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Current Humanitarian Situation
M23, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and other rebel groups in North and South Kivu continue to control swaths of countryside, especially remote areas, causing new displacement and making it impossible for those already displaced to return to their land. Armed groups, including the national army (FARDC), have repeatedly engaged in acts of sexual violence, especially against young women and girls. More efforts are necessary to better protect the displaced and the most vulnerable amongst them. Access for humanitarian organizations to assist displaced populations remains extremely challenging due to ongoing insecurity and poor roads. In certain areas people have been able to return to their land, sometimes leading to ethnic tensions and land disputes which require community-level conflict resolution initiatives. Meanwhile, for those people displaced for long periods and the host communities helping them, assistance must go beyond basic services to include a focus on livelihoods and education.
While the number of people affected is not as great as in the Kivus, parts of Orientale province are the scene of violence perpetrated by other groups, notably the Lord’s Resistance Army. Ongoing attacks cause new displacement and instability prevents people from restarting their lives. Meanwhile Equateur, in the west of the country, is preparing for the return of thousands of refugees displaced during localized fighting in 2009. A well-implemented and coordinated reintegration effort will be crucial in ensuring peace and stability in the area.
The UN peacekeeping/stabilization mission MONUSCO (reconfigured from MONUC as of July 2010) has made significant efforts to develop ways to better protect civilians, especially in North Kivu. It is, however, hampered by resource constraints and maintains an uneasy relationship with the poorly trained and ill-equipped national army. MONUSCO needs to be enabled to build on its best practices and extend them to other areas.
When violent conflict breaks out, the United States and other United Nations member states often call for the deployment of UN peacekeeping forces to create stability and protect people from harm. The UN Security Council has explicitly instructed peacekeepers to protect civilians under “imminent threat of violence” in most UN peacekeeping mandates since 1999. But there is no clarity as to what “protection” means in practice. Which circumstances require action and what level of force should be used? This has resulted in a lack of proper training, guidance and resources for peacekeepers to accomplish protection activities.
In March 2011, two communities in Equateur province in the DR Congo signed a non-aggression pact ending more than a year of deadly conflict. We are pleased that peace has arrived after the UN and other agencies followed RI’s recommendation to support reconciliation efforts.
Then in August 2011, as the new UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was being formed, RI was instrumental in pushing the UN Security Council to prioritize the protection of civilians and authorize the greatest possible number of troops.