In the wake of a visit to a refugee camp in southern Rwanda, the United Nations top humanitarian official today called for greater support for people displaced by fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“The affected Congolese, in Rwanda and the DRC, want an end to the violence and a chance to return home,” the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, said in a news release. “It is vital that all partners in the region contribute to solve this crisis, which is affecting the region.”
Earlier Thursday, Ms. Amos visited the Kigeme refugee camp in southern Rwanda, where more than 11,500 Congolese are housed.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which Ms. Amos heads, about 20,000 people have crossed the DRC border into Rwanda, fleeing armed violence in the DRC’s North Kivu province.
The eastern DRC – particularly its provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu – has been plagued by violence over the past few months as a group of renegade soldiers known as the 23 March Movement (M23) has been active in the area.
The M23 has clashed with national army troops, which have been supported by peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), and has caused massive displacement of local residents, in addition to raising concerns about the region’s stability.
In addition, the fighting in eastern DRC has uprooted nearly half a million people over the past four months, including some 220,000 people in North Kivu province, 200,000 in South Kivu province, and more than 51,000 who have fled to neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. The M23’s activities have led to condemnation from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council.
The Rwandan Government and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are responsible for coordination efforts in Kigeme camp, with UN humanitarian agencies and their non-governmental partners providing basic services such as water, sanitation, health and food.
“The Government of Rwanda has played a crucial role in the relief effort, providing a site where families, children separated from their parents, the elderly and other vulnerable persons have sought safety,” Ms. Amos said. “However, more resources are needed to scale up the response.”
While in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, Ms. Amos met Prime Minister Pierre Habururemyi and Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. Their discussions centred on the ongoing relief efforts in DRC and Rwanda, and the ways in which the United Nations and its partners are supporting them, as well as regional efforts to resolve the crisis.
Earlier this week, Secretary-General Ban renewed his call for the regional grouping known as the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to help resolve the security crisis in the eastern DRC.
Ms. Amos’ visit to Rwanda was preceded by a visit to DRC. The three-day mission to the two African countries was aimed at highlighting the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the DRC and its effect on the region, particularly on neighbouring Rwanda, in addition to discussing ways of strengthening relief efforts and mobilizing additional assistance, including financial support, with Congolese and Rwandan authorities and other humanitarian partners.