High Commissioner Guterres warns of huge risk for conflict again in DRC

News Stories, 27 February 2006

© UNHCR/K.McKinsey
In Kinshasa, High Commissioner António Guterres talks with a 17-year-old street boy at a WFP- and UNICEF-funded Centre for Disadvantaged Children. Many of the boys are thrown out of home because they are suspected of being sorcerers.

KINSHASA, Feb. 27 (UNHCR) Warning that there is "a huge risk for conflict to rise again," UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has called on the international community to provide greater support to the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) transition to full democracy for the first time in 45 years.

Guterres was speaking Sunday in Kinshasa, capital of the huge and troubled DRC, on the first day of his visit to the Great Lakes region with the heads of two of the UN's other large humanitarian agencies, James Morris of the World Food Programme, WFP, and Ann M. Veneman of UNICEF, the children's fund.

"The scale of the problem, the complexity of the problem, and the nature of the problem [in the DRC] are such that all our resources combined together won't easily solve it," Guterres told ambassadors from donor countries. "We are morally obliged to act together," he added. Separately, UN agencies cannot do much. Together we can really make a difference."

He said the unprecedented mission of the three agency heads showed their "total solidarity with this area and its people" as well as the commitment of UN agencies to co-operate more closely with each other.

On Sunday morning, the three visited a feeding centre in a Kinshasa slum where malnutrition is a permanent problem, and then chatted with children in a programme for street children, many of whom have been mistreated at home because they are suspected of being sorcerers.

The street boys performed a short play in which aid workers try to make peace between two armed men vying for the presidency of their country. They showed UNHCR donating plastic sheeting to a victim of fighting, ("Très bien," applauded Guterres), WFP handing over food, and UNICEF giving textbooks to a child.

"The war is finished, the transition [to democracy] is finished. Forward to the elections," a young boy proclaimed at the end of the play.

It was a theme echoed by Guterres, who is on his first visit to the Great Lakes region.

"There is a need for a deep commitment to support new Congolese institutions and the Congolese development process in the next few years," he said, "because it will be key to stability in this part of Africa."

He spoke as DRC heads for national elections scheduled for June, following a successful, peaceful constitutional referendum. Citizens who voted in the referendum, Guterres observed, "clearly said 'we want war to stop, we want one country, one democratic government, one army, all acting in a civilized way.' It is now up to politicians to deliver and up to the international community to support them."

DRC has been the site of the most lethal fighting in the world since World War II. A six-year war cost 4 million lives, and medical experts say a further 1,200 are still dying needlessly every day. More than 3.4 million have been displaced from their homes (of whom 411,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries), and 17 million don't have a steady supply of food.

Guterres and his fellow high-level visitors lamented that this tragedy is unfolding out of the glare of television cameras, and out of the consciousness of the developed world. All three UN agencies say they are dramatically under-funded compared to needs, in the three Great Lakes countries they will visit on this trip.

On Monday morning, the visitors met DRC President Joseph Kabila for 45 minutes and discussed the need for the international community to help DRC protect its own citizens. Later in the morning they were scheduled to travel to eastern DRC where on Tuesday they plan to meet refugees returning home from camps in Tanzania with UNHCR's help. Over 57,000 Congolese refugees have returned home since October 2004, of whom 22,000 were assisted by the UN refugee agency.

© UNHCR/K.McKinsey
Children at a feeding centre in Kinshasa run by the Presbyterian church and funded by WFP and Unicef. The heads of UNHCR, WFP and Unicef visited the centre to underscore the DRC's urgent need for assistance in the capital as well as in the east.

The three agency heads then travel on to Rwanda and Burundi to underline the need to find a regional solution to conflict and displacement in the Great Lakes.

"You cannot solve the political problems of Congo if at the same time you do not address the problems of Rwandans and Burundians," the High Commissioner said.

By Kitty McKinsey in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo




The High Commissioner

Filippo Grandi, who took office on January 1 2016, is the UN refugee agency's 11th High Commissioner.

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Since 2006, renewed conflict and general insecurity in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo's North Kivu province has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes – the country's worst displacement crisis since the formal end of the civil war in 2003. In total, there are now some 800,000 people displaced in the province, including those uprooted by previous conflicts.

Hope for the future was raised in January 2008 when the DRC government and rival armed factions signed a peace accord. But the situation remains tense in North Kivu and tens of thousands of people still need help. UNHCR has opened sites for internally displaced people (IDPs) and distributed assistance such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, jerry cans, firewood and other items to the four camps in the region. Relief items have also been delivered to some of the makeshift sites that have sprung up.

UNHCR staff have been engaged in protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs and other populations at risk across North Kivu.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Posted on 28 May 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

Fighting rages on in various parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with seemingly no end in sight for hundreds of thousands of Congolese forced to flee violence and instability over the past two years. The ebb and flow of conflict has left many people constantly on the move, while many families have been separated. At least 1 million people are displaced in North Kivu, the hardest hit province. After years of conflict, more than 1,000 people still die every day - mostly of hunger and treatable diseases. In some areas, two out of three women have been raped. Abductions persist and children are forcefully recruited to fight. Outbreaks of cholera and other diseases have increased as the situation deteriorates and humanitarian agencies struggle to respond to the needs of the displaced.

When the displacement crisis worsened in North Kivu in 2007, the UN refugee agency sent emergency teams to the area and set up operations in several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs). Assistance efforts have also included registering displaced people and distributing non-food aid. UNHCR carries out protection monitoring to identify human rights abuses and other problems faced by IDPs in North and South Kivu.

Displaced in North Kivu: A Life on the Run

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