Since April 2012, hundreds of thousands of people in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo have fled their homes to escape violence sparked by fighting between rebels and the Congolese army. The crisis is the latest in a long series of emergencies in this fragile region, where people have lived for many years with pervasive insecurity and fear of abuse.
Last updated January 2013
For decades, ethnic tensions and disputes over land and resources have spiraled out of control in eastern Congo. In the absence of a strong state authority—the army is ill trained and poorly paid and the justice system is weak—conflict and violence are the result. The volatility has reduced people’s ability to earn a living, and poverty makes them more vulnerable to the violence.
In April former CNDP (Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple) soldiers defected to form a new group, the M23 (Mouvement 23), and as government troops moved in to fight them, other armed groups took advantage of the vacuum. Civilians have been trapped—in misery—in the middle.
“Ruthless militias and government troops are both mercilessly exploiting local communities to help fund their war,” said Oxfam’s associate country director, Elodie Martel. “Preying on people has become an extractive industry in which armed groups plunder money, food and whatever other resources they can find. People are leaving their homes every day to escape the terror of rebel rule and the relentless extortion that makes existence almost impossible as their lives and livelihoods are looted.”
By late November 2012, the number of rebel groups active across the Kivus had mushroomed to 25, and tens of thousands of people were living in desperate conditions inside Goma, the regional capital, where power and water shortages had heightened the threat of cholera.