Number of refugees in eastern DRC increases

Posted Dec 15, 2012 by Raluca Besliu
Doctors Without Borders announced that there has been a significant rise in the number of refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) eastern province North Kivu, as a result of the fighting between governmental troops and the M23 rebels.
Children collecting firewood in an area of the DRC.
Children collecting firewood in an area of the DRC.
At the end of November 2012, the M23 rebels, an insurgent group, consisting mainly of former fighters in the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a Tutsi rebel movement , and formed after an unsuccessful attempt to integrate the fighters in Congo’s army in 2009, gained control of North Kivu’s capital, Goma, for 11 days, after seizing it from governmental forces supported by the United Nations (U.N.). The Congolese government has managed to recapture the city of Goma, after the rebels agreed to withdraw 20 km north of the city and President Joseph Kabila promised to listen to their rebels' grievances, as established in a Uganda-brokered deal. While clashes around Goma have stopped and the government and M23 rebels are currently engaged in peace talks in Uganda, fighting continues elsewhere in the province.
Doctors Without Borders indicated that there are currently more than 800,000 people displaced in the province, which is significantly higher than the 500,000 estimated before the latest wave of violence last month. The agency also stressed that the refugees currently live in dire conditions, as they lack access to adequate shelter and other key items.
However, fighting is not likely to end in the near future, given that North Kivu is an extremely valuable province from an economic standpoint, due to its oil reserves, gold, tin, tungsten and coltan-a metal used to make mobile phones. Rwanda and Uganda, DRC’s neighbors allegedly involved in backing the M23 rebels, have fought in the past. Rwanda has twice invaded the DRC in the last two decades, even igniting in 1998 a conflict known as "Africa's Great War," in which several countries were involved. The Rwandan government justified this latter intervention by emphasizing that it had to react to hostile Rwandan Hutu fighters who had fled to Congo after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Similarly, in the recent past, Uganda and Congo have fought over regulating border oil exploitation and resulted in the signing of the 2007 Ngurdoto Accords.