Congo crisis Q&A
21 November 2008
Why have thousands of people fled their homes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo?
Fighting broke out in eastern Congo between a rebel group and government troops at the end of August 2008, causing thousands of people to flee their homes. More and more people have left their homes as the situation has deteriorated.
What is the root of the conflict?
Some say that Congo’s wealth of mineral resources are at the root of the conflict. Congo is rich in ores such as Coltan, which is used to make electrical goods such as mobile phones.
Congolese bishops recently issued a statement saying that natural resources were part of the cause of the violence. There are fears that the instability created by the violence will leave Congo’s natural resources unprotected and ripe for exploitation by external actors. The country’s resources have been exploited in the past by outsiders in complicity with some political and military elites in Congo.
Other factors include: thirty-two years of dictatorship by President Mobutu characterised by corruption, nepotism, destruction of the economy and chaos in the army; ethnic conflicts such as the Rwandan genocide and armed groups from neighbouring countries spilling over in Congo.
How many people are affected?
It’s difficult to say as access to the displaced by aid agencies is limited by the fighting. Assessments have also been made difficult because many people are difficult to track down as they have sought shelter in other people’s homes, people are so afraid that they hide in the bush and others find themselves caught behind rebel battle lines where aid agencies can’t reach them.
Some aid agencies say up to 250,000 people have been uprooted by violence since just August. Over one million people are internally displaced by the conflict in eastern Congo overall.
What are the risks to the people uprooted by violence?
Hunger, disease, violence and rape – to name just a few. People who are beyond the reach of aid agencies because of the violence will have difficulties obtaining food and water. This will make them weaker and more vulnerable to malnourishment and disease.
People who are staying in crowded camps are at risk from diseases such as cholera. Kivu is very high up and can be very cold. As the rainy season sets in, people living in just flimsy tents or without shelter will be at risk of exposure.
What is Caritas doing to help?
Caritas has launched two emergency appeals for a total of US$5.5 million to provide help to a total of 240,000 people until March 2009. It has been distributing food rations to people who have fled their homes.
Caritas is also providing non-food help such as medical support, blankets, clothes, soap and cooking utensils as many people left everything behind. Women who have been victims of sexual violence will also receive medical help and counselling.
What can the international community do to help?
The international community can put pressure on the various parties involved to address the causes of the violence and come to a lasting peace agreement. It can also increase the amount of humanitarian aid to Congo as people’s needs are getting greater all the time.
The UN should boost the number of MONUC peacekeeping forces to the region as they have so far been ineffective in stemming the violence. The mandate of MONUC should be clear and strong in order to stop the killings of civilians and they should ensure the respecting of peace agreements.
What can I do to help?
Contribute to Caritas’ emergency appeal and have a direct effect on the lives of the people in eastern Congo. Donate here.
RESOURCESAnnual Report 2011Emergency GuidelinesEmergency Response Tool KitEmergency Appeals 2012Emergency Appeals 2011Emergency Appeals 2010Emergencies on Caritas BlogBridging the Gap between Policy and Practice