Waking the Devil

The impact of forced disarmament on civilians in the Kivus

The military operations launched against the FDLR since early 2009 have been presented as a bid for the unity (Umoja Wetu) and peace (Kimia II) that have so long eluded eastern DRC1. In that light they have received considerable international acclaim and support, particularly through the UN peacekeeping force, MONUC. Warnings of potentially devastating consequences for civilian protection over recent months have repeatedly met with the response that this is ‘the price to pay for peace’. In May 2009, Oxfam and a number of its partners interviewed residents in some of the areas of North and South Kivu where that price is being exacted.

This report summarizes the key findings of a protection assessment carried out by Oxfam and a number of its partners in the latter half of May 2009. The threats, perpetrators and solutions presented here are recorded as the participants in the survey have reported them to us and reflect the views of 569 ordinary people across 20 communities in North and South Kivu affected by the joint operations. The names of the locations and participants (including the partners) have been withheld to ensure confidentiality and the safety of the people involved in the assessment.

The responses in these 20 communities highlight a number of key findings regarding the joint operations:

  • The operations have resulted in increased violence against civilians in all affected areas, including where there had as yet been no military engagement at the time of the survey.
  • This violence is often a direct result of the operations, with widespread reprisal attacks on communities from both sides and a spike in abuses from the mass military deployment.
  • It is compounded by problems linked to the fast-track integration of militia fighters into the army which has run parallel to FARDC deployment for the operations, and by the failure of justice and protection mechanisms.
  • There are also significant indirect consequences, as the operations have generated new opportunities for abuse by a range of actors.