After Elections In Dr Congo, Time To Focus On Sustainable Return Of Internally Displaced People

Nov. 3, 2006 – While the Congolese people and the international community await the results of the second round of the national elections, millions of internally displaced people and recent returnees continue to live in catastrophic conditions, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of the Norwegian Refugee Council says in a report released today.With the relative improvement of security over the past year, hundreds of thousands of people displaced throughout eastern DRC recently returned home, particularly in Katanga and Ituri provinces. “The majority of them returned without assistance and found no houses, no schools and nothing to eat upon arrival. Everything had been looted or destroyed by militias or by soldiers,” said Tomas C. Archer, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “Critical return and reintegration needs of IDPs are not being adequately addressed,” Mr. Archer added.

Over 1.48 million people are estimated to be displaced within DRC as result of attacks by local militias, the Hutu Rwandan Armed Liberation Forces and Mai Mai factions, as well as operations by the Congolese army against such groups, according to the report. Some 500,000 people fled their homes in the first half of 2006 alone. Many displaced persons rely on the generosity of relatives and friends; only a few have found refuge in camps. Many continue to be targeted by the Congolese army, which accuse them of supporting militias. Undisciplined and unpaid Congolese military personnel have become the largest threat for Congolese civilians, as soldiers have been reported to rape and abduct IDPs, terrorise farmers, steal livestock, and pillage local plantations, the report says.

The vast majority of IDPs and returnees lack access to basic infrastructure such as health centres, schools and roads, as well as potable water, food, seeds, tools, clothes and straw to build houses. With DRC’s healthcare structures collapsing, displaced persons are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases. “At this crucial juncture, donors have showed their commitment to the election process in the DRC, which is essential. But more needs to be done to support a strategic and coordinated response to internal displacement and to guarantee a sustainable return,” said Mr. Archer.

Read full report at www.internal-displacement.org

Contact:
Jens-Hagen Eschenbächer
Head of Monitoring and Advocacy Department
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
Norwegian Refugee Council
Chemin de Balexert 7-9
CH-1219 Châtelaine (Geneva)
Tel.: +41 (22) 799 07 03
Fax +41 (22) 799 07 01
www.internal-displacement.org

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