Escalating Conflict in the DRC Needs Robust Response

Statement from Refugees International’s senior advocate for women and girls Devon Cone and senior advocate for east and Southern Africa Abdullahi Boru Halakhe:

“Refugees International is alarmed by the rapid advancement of the M23, a militia group, towards the City of Goma, the capital of North Kivu in the east Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Last month, Refugees International visited camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in Goma and witnessed an already grave security and humanitarian situation.

Donor countries must urgently increase funding for a humanitarian response that was insufficient even before the latest conflict. Support is especially needed to prevent and treat gender-based violence.

During its recent visit, Refugees International saw the IDPs living in congested camps, with little food and significantly high levels of gender-based violence perpetrated by armed groups and government soldiers. Rape survivors who spoke with Refugees International said they received limited assistance, and they are still at risk of rape.

To avert further deterioration, the Eastern African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, Huang Xia, should call for the cessation of hostilities by the M23, the Congolese Government allies, and other militias.

In the face of the deteriorating security situation, the United Nations Secretary-General – in consultation with France as the UN Security Council penholder on DRC – should call for an emergency UN Security Council session to explore putting diplomatic pressure on the M23 and the countries allegedly supporting them. In consultation with the DRC Government, the Council should consider slowing the planned draw down of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO).

In the last week, at least 135,000 people have arrived in the Goma IDP camps seeking safety and medical treatment for the injuries they have sustained because of the fighting. The latest round of fighting near Goma has triggered additional mass displacement and killing and sparked fear that the violence might soon reach the capital. The situation in eastern DRC is already one of the worst protracted humanitarian and displacement crises in the world. The escalation of the conflict in recent days is exacerbating these dire circumstances, particularly in North Kivu, where at least 2.4 million people are displaced.”

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