Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2017, 15:16 GMT

State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2015 - Democratic Republic of the Congo

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2 July 2015
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2015 - Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2 July 2015, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/55a4fa5cc.html [accessed 18 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2014 conflict in eastern DRC, with at present no fewer than 54 different armed groups, had caused roughly 430,000 people to flee to neighbouring countries and left some 2.7 million more internally displaced.

North and South Kivu provinces

After the UN Intervention Brigade and DRC troops dislodged a largely ethnic Tutsi armed group, M23, in 2013, the focus turned to the Hutu-dominated Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), under UN sanctions for abuses including ethnically based killings in Rwanda and the DRC. Some FDLR fighters were among the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In July, an international meeting of ministers of defence set a six-month timeframe for the voluntary surrender of the FDLR. It publicly agreed to demobilize, but by year's end had made no serious effort to do so. Humanitarian staff expressed concern at the potential for harm to civilians during any offensive against the FDLR as the group, unlike M23, does not set up discrete camps but rather lives among the local population. Another UN/ DRC military operation, in January 2014 in the Beni region of North Kivu against the Ugandan-led Islamist armed group Alliance of Democratic Forces-NALU (ADF-NALU), had caused mass civilian displacement. ADF-NALU, formed with the aim of creating an Islamic state in Uganda, was reportedly pushed across the border into the DRC in 1995. In the last quarter of the year, ADF-NALU was believed to have been responsible for a series of brutal attacks in Beni in which more than 250 civilians were killed by attackers using knives, hoes and machetes. Tens of thousands fled their homes.

Inter-ethnic violence persisted elsewhere during the year. In February, Hunde and Hutu ethnically oriented militias in Masisi territory, North Kivu, were each accused of carrying out human rights abuses against civilians perceived to support the opposing group, resulting in at least 40 civilian deaths. At the root of the violence is control over land: Hunde leaders claim customary right to it, which has created tensions with Hutu residents.

In June at least 30 people, mostly from the Bafuliro ethnic group, were killed in an attack on an outdoor church service and nearby buildings in the village of Mutarule, South Kivu. Bafuliro had been engaged in a conflict over cattle theft and local power with members of the Banyamulenge Tutsi and Barundi ethnicities living nearby. The head of the UN mission to Congo (MONUSCO) apologized for his troops' failure to intervene despite being repeatedly alerted to the attack. The roots of the Bafuliro-Barundi conflict date back to colonial times, in an ongoing struggle over land and leadership in the Ruzizi plain.

Katanga province

Despite its mineral wealth, the population of resource-rich Katanga suffers from widespread poverty, weak state services and the impact of diseases such as cholera. In this context, land and inequalities create serious tensions that regularly erupt into violence. In the Tanganyika district of Katanga, violence between indigenous hunter-gatherer Twa inhabitants and ethnic Luba, a Bantu group, displaced more than 70,000 people during the year, primarily indigenous Twa. Some Luba accuse Twa of supporting the armed forces in their fight against the (largely Luba) secessionist Mai Mai militia groups known as Kata Katanga. The struggle is also rooted in social inequalities between the historically marginalized Twa and the more privileged ethnic group, as well as in competition for land and resources.

In July 2014, a proposal for a law on the rights of indigenous peoples was submitted to the DRC legislature for consideration. It is hoped that this will address key issues facing indigenous hunter-gatherer communities such as Twa, including discrimination but also specific government policies such as those around forestry that limit their ability to exercise their traditional livelihoods and land rights.

More than a third of the DRC's population is now urban and this proportion is projected to exceed 50 per cent by 2040, with many concentrated in Kinshasa, Africa's third largest city. Plans for a luxury billion-dollar development on two reclaimed islands on the Congo River in the capital, dubbed Cité du Fleuve, contrast markedly with the situation of Kinshasa's urban poor, struggling to survive through the informal economy within unofficial settlements on the urban periphery. Kinshasa is ethnically diverse, and has seen tensions between residents seen as 'native' and those perceived as migrants. In Kinshasa this has been heightened by the fact that long-time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko was succeeded in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, the head of a largely Tutsi-led military movement that ousted Hutu refugees and militia from camps in eastern DRC where they had fled following the Rwandan genocide. Opposition to his presidency, and that of his son Joseph, who was elected after his assassination, has at times taken an ethnic slant as ethnicity becomes increasingly politicized.

Many communities in conflict-affected areas have been forced to relocate to cities such as Goma, where they have ended up in a state of protracted displacement in overcrowded settlements on the urban periphery. Residents in these areas typically struggle with limited basic services such as water or sanitation, chronic economic insecurity and an elevated risk of violence or sexual assault by armed militias. A 2014 profile by the Norwegian Refugee Council of displaced populations in Goma found that a third of those surveyed intended to stay in the city, while others who wished to return were often unable to do so because their land had been forcibly seized – effectively leaving them in a state of indefinite displacement. The situation of displaced populations in Goma and other urban centres in conflict-affected regions of DRC may therefore represent a long-term challenge that will need to be addressed through effective and integrated urban policies to ensure their protection and prevent regular outbreaks of violence.

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