Millions left at the mercy of militias and armed forces across eastern Congo
Oxfam warns of risk of war on top of the daily violence and abuse people already face
More than one million people are at risk of militia, rebel and army attacks as fighters begin to position themselves in and around the provincial city of Goma with little or no protection from the government or UN peacekeepers international agency Oxfam warned today.
Displacement camps are becoming increasingly under threat as different rebel groups appear to be moving towards sites around the city. The agency fears civilians could get caught up in attacks targeting displacement camps and more than one million will be trying to find safety in an area overflowing with soldiers and militias.
If fighting breaks out clashes could take place in a number of areas surrounding the city. Oxfam said the UN peacekeeping mission should urgently patrol high-risk areas, especially at night around camps and villages when civilians are particularly at risk of attack.
Daily violence and abuse
“People are scared and many have gathered their belongings in anticipation of a big explosion of violence,” said Oxfam’s humanitarian coordinator Tariq Riebl. “There is now a real risk of war on top of the daily violence and abuse people already face. It will be catastrophic for Congolese people who are already targets for extortion, rape and torture from more than 25 rebel groups across the east.
“Millions of people are trapped in and around Goma and towns across the east with no way of escaping what could be a ruthless and bloody confrontation.”
Villages, camps attacked
In and around Masisi, 80 kms north-west of Goma, another catastrophe is well underway where approximately 250,000 people have fled for their lives in the past month alone as villages have been burnt and camps attacked.
A remote and volatile area with no tarmac roads and limited phone network, humanitarian agencies are unable to assess the scale of the crisis and provide sufficient vital life-saving aid.
Murder, rape, exploitation
According to local organizations working in the area, at least 17 villages in Masisi territory have been burnt and looted in the past two weeks and more than 20 camps where tens of thousands of displaced people are sheltering are now under the control of armed groups known to murder, rape and exploit civilians.
Multiple armed groups
At least four armed groups control routes in an out of Masisi, making it almost impossible for people to leave the area. Many are believed to have fled into Masisi town or scattered into the bush away from major roads. More than 8000 families are currently sheltering in churches and schools in the town, with little access to safe water, healthcare or medicine.
Masisi is a key strategic area, vital for control over lucrative mineral and trade routes. A recent Oxfam assessment found market towns in the region have been repeatedly attacked by numerous armed groups, including the Congolese army, fighting for control of markets and taxation of traders. Farmers have to pay money or food to local “Mayi Mayi” militia to access their fields, and armed groups have taken food from the fields of local farmers to feed their own fighters and families.
UN must step up
The UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, has bases in the territory but communities say they have not seen any patrols in recent weeks.
“We can't shout loudly enough,” said Riebl. “This violence has to end. It has caused decades of suffering and grinding poverty. All those at peace talks in Kampala must do all they can to bring an end to this brutal madness. Failed agreements and half-hearted negotiations are simply not enough in the face of a humanitarian tragedy of this scale. The AU and the UN must step up its leadership of negotiations and make sure a timetable for a long-lasting solution is agreed."
Photos: IDP camps near Goma, eastern DRC
More on Oxfam's response to the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Notes to Editors
Oxfam has been providing life-saving aid in three camps around Goma since July, piping and trucking clean water to people who had fled the fighting. The agency has built latrines and installed sanitation services, as well as providing cash distributions to help people buy food. Oxfam also works in several areas across North and South Kivu, providing water and sanitation, and helping communities get their rights to adequate protection.
Oxfam map showing rebel groups in eastern DR Congo (as of late November 2012)
For more information or to organize an interview contact Anna Ridout on +44 (0)7766 443506/ firstname.lastname@example.org
European Union Office reports and papers
Tell us: how would you tackle something as big & complex as global #poverty? http://t.co/vp3o1FatOd #WorldWeWant20 min 28 sec ago
What's life in the sprawling #Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan, home now to +100,000 people? http://t.co/SP3UnYvlGJ @bbc5live #Syria1 hour 5 min ago
So what did @G8 leaders deliver for the 1 in 8 people going to bed hungry each night? Here's our reaction: http://t.co/Ki8ZNWtSuy13 hours 10 min ago
RT @DFID_UK: David Cameron announces additional £175m for #Syria crisis to provide immediate humanitarian assistance http://t.co/dfDvdX2IDb…14 hours 8 min ago
15 hours 11 min ago
Poor people will be left behind in the race for #tax reform unless the #G8 seriously ups its game http://t.co/eddj3Qfeq4 #taxhavens15 hours 36 min ago
#G8 has asked all the right questions but has been thin on answers http://t.co/ACRH7YyBpV #landgrabs #taxhavens #SyriaPeaceTalks16 hours 1 min ago
Just hrs before the #G8 ends. Lend your voice before its over: demand that leaders close #TaxHavens, #StopLandGrabs & bring peace to #Syria.16 hours 51 min ago
#G8 on land: 'transactions should be transparent, respecting the property rights of local communities.' http://t.co/naak6xQBto17 hours 2 min ago
17 hours 38 min ago
PIC: @G8 leaders take to the golf course. Will they score a hole in one & end hunger on their last day together? #G8 http://t.co/HYUrK0bAHe18 hours 29 min ago
19 hours 10 min ago
RT @TomvanderLee: Geneva conference on #Syria more likely to take place in August than July, sources say to @Reuters19 hours 22 min ago
RT @oxfamgbpress: Listen NOW: @ShelaghFogarty live with @Oxfam from #Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan http://t.co/awmgroaiZZ on @bbc5live #Sy…19 hours 29 min ago
19 hours 33 min ago