31 December 2013 |

Democratic Republic of Congo: Internal displacement in brief

As of December 2013


There were at least 2,963,700 IDPs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as of the end of 2013, a slight increase on the figure for 2012. The country’s internal displacement situation remains complex, with around a million new displacements during 2013 adding to large numbers of protracted IDPs.

Various conflicts, including the two Congolese wars, have forced people to flee violence and human rights abuses since the mid-1990s. In 2013, inter-communal and land disputes and violence by state and non-state armed groups caused displacement. The March 23 Movement (M23) signed a peace agreement in December 2013, but numerous other armed groups remain active in eastern DRC, including Mai-Mai militias, Raia Mutomboki, the Rwandan Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) also carried out 195 attacks in 2013, 164 of them in DRC’s Orientale province alone.

Most of DRC’s IDPs are in the eastern part of the country, with more than half of them concentrated in the provinces of North and South Kivu. There were almost 1,123,500 IDPs in North Kivu as of 25 November 2013, and at least 579,600 in South Kivu as of 31 December 2013. There were also at least 549,900 in Orientale province, 402,200 in Katanga and 293,500 in Maniema. Figures for the latter two provinces have increased dramatically as violence has escalated since 2012. The number of IDPs in Equateur province doubled during 2013 to stand at 15,000 at the end of the year.

As of December 2013, 72 per cent of IDPs were living with host families and 28 per cent in informal sites and camps. Some IDPs may only be displaced for a few days or weeks at a time, but others have been living in protracted displacement for years. IDPs’ most urgent needs vary from province to province and context to context, but overall they are significant, particularly in terms of food, health, water and shelter. IDPs are also more vulnerable than other civilians to human rights violations such as arbitrary arrests, torture, killings, gender-based violence, forced recruitment, extortion, looting and forced labour. In the absence of a strong state, communities turn to local armed groups for protection. These groups are often ethnically based, putting them on the frontline of inter-ethnic tensions.

There are many obstacles to durable solutions in DRC. Ongoing and resurgent insecurity and violence and the unsatisfactory disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants are key challenges, triggering multiple or repeated displacements and possibly compromising the resilience of IDPs. Others include a lack of access to land for cultivation, alternative livelihoods and basic services. Until the situation improves, all IDPs and civilians are at risk of further displacement.

The government has undertaken various efforts at the institutional level to protect and assist IDPs, but they have had little impact on the ground. In 2013, a parliamentary working group drafted national legislation on internal displacement that the council of ministers is due to adopt in 2014. Civil society members, however, have voiced concern about the lack of consultation in the drafting process. The Congolese authorities continued to take part to some extent in the humanitarian cluster system and have expressed their intention to become more involved in the response to displacement. Despite these efforts, the government still struggles to meet its responsibilities as the primary provider of assistance and protection to IDPs as it lacks the necessary capacities, resources and political will.

DRC is a state party to the Great Lakes Pact and it has signed, but not yet ratified, the Kampala Convention.

International humanitarian organisations continue to work mainly through the cluster system, which was set up in DRC in 2006. They provided aid in areas such as food security, health, water, sanitation, nutrition, shelter, education and protection. Coordination, however, remains a challenge. In North Kivu, IDPs in camps have tended to receive more humanitarian assistance than those living in informal sites or with host communities. A lack of funding has also limited the international response, with some organisations forced to close their offices and interrupt or abandon their work in recent years.