‘We are entirely exploitable’

The lack of protection for civilians in eastern DRC

Each year Oxfam undertakes a far-reaching survey of unheard, conflict-affected people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Three-quarters of the 1,705 people polled in 2011 said that they felt their security had not improved since last year. In areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), this figure rose to 90 per cent, with communities telling Oxfam that they felt abandoned, isolated, and vulnerable. Communities everywhere painted a grim picture of continued abuse of power by militias, the Congolese army, and other government authorities, wearing away their livelihoods and ability to cope.

Key recommendations

The Government of the DRC and international donor governments

  • National and international efforts to implement the DRC government’s plans for security sector reform should prioritise those changes that communities say will most directly improve their safety: pay, welfare, garrisoning, and logistics support for FARDC and PNC personnel; discipline and justice; and training in human rights. 
  • Military and civilian authorities should address the extortion and violations committed by the FARDC and the PNC as a priority, and should start by removing checkpoints that serve no specific security purpose and by putting an end to protection abuses at illegal barriers. 
  • The Congolese military authorities should give clear directives to all personnel enforcing respect for the status of all non-combatants, especially minors, and monitor the application of these directives, with support from MONUSCO, to avoid civilians being targeted for abuse on the pretext that they are collaborating with the various militia groups.
  • The existing FARDC Zero Tolerance Policy for Human Rights Abuses must be put into practice to address the culture of impunity. 
  • The Congolese government and its international partners should step up the effective, accountable, and widespread deployment of military police and prosecution support. 

International donors

  • International donors must ensure that detailed context and conflict analysis underpins their interventions in order to respond to livelihoods and land issues in eastern DRC in a conflict-sensitive and sustainable manner.
  • International donors, alongside the government, must prioritise addressing structural constraints in LRA-affected areas, such as through support for the expansion of telecommunications and road networks, in the interest of making LRA-affected communities less vulnerable.