The French military intervention in Mali is just a few days old, and there is plenty of uncertainty about the operation’s strategy and potential outcomes. But one thing is clear: as this campaign escalates, more civilians are being forced to flee their homes – exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has plagued Mali for more than a year. Governments and aid agencies in the region must be prepared for the worst and take steps immediately to assist this new wave of displaced Malians....
“My son heard my husband knocking some nails into the wall and he actually thought this noise was me killing his father,” a Kuwaiti woman, whom I will call Mona, told me. I am currently in Kuwait with my Refugees International colleague, assessing the needs of this country’s stateless population.
About a year and a half ago, I was interviewing peacekeepers on a tiny temporary base in eastern DR Congo. I met a man in his 80s who had walked five hours on an injured leg to deliver a letter. It was a message for the peacekeepers. And that message was: “Please, don’t leave.”
This base was only accessible by foot or helicopter. There were just 50 soldiers and so they had a really limited reach. But
While conducting a humanitarian assessment with Refugees International, I spoke with an eighty-year-old woman who had recently fled violent reprisal killings near the village of Lukweti in Masisi territory. In December of last year, when a local self-defense force, defeated a Congolese army unit primarily made up of former members of the Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP rebel group, the soldiers turned on the local population.
This week, the governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) signed a Tripartite Agreement, setting the stage to help more than 50,000 Congolese refugees return home after living in camps in Rwanda.
In January, there were two discussions in the United Nations Security Council that are important to Refugees International’s work. The discussion on Somalia was particularlydisappointing, but we were pleased that the UN Security Council is finally looking at how to respond to the escalating violence in south Sudan.
Refugees International wrote in a September 2009 field report that sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had increased since the start of the government-led “Kimia II” military operations against the FDLR rebel group. When Refugees International Advocate Camilla Olson and I were in South Kivu in August carrying out research for the report, many displaced women described their experiences after they fled the fighting. One woman from Ziralo groupement told RI she escaped after hearing gunshots outside her house. In the chaos, her family was scattered and left home with nothing. She spent four nights in the forest before she could make it into town. She said women were raped by the FDLR while fleeing, and she didn’t want to go back home as long as they were still around.