Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2018, 08:18 GMT

Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Democratic Republic of the Congo

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 19 April 2012
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2011: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19 April 2012, available at: [accessed 22 February 2018]
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.
Quick facts
Number of IDPs1,710,000
Percentage of total population2.5%
Start of current displacement situation1996
Peak number of IDPs (Year)3,400,000 (2003)
New displacementAt least 168,000
Causes of displacementArmed conflict, generalised violence, human rights violations
Human development index187

At the end of 2011, an estimated 1.7 million people were internally displaced in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by various conflicts which had killed several million people since the mid-1990s. The vast majority of those currently displaced had fled since the start of large-scale military operations against armed groups in eastern DRC in early 2009, or from the attacks and violence against civilians perpetrated by all parties to the conflicts.

In 2011, many areas of the country, particularly in the east, were outside government control, and the army had limited success in defeating various armed groups. Members of both the army and rebel groups continued to commit human rights violations and abuses, including killings, sexual exploitation, abduction, forced conscription of children, looting, plundering of crops, illegal taxation and widespread harassment. The perpetrators of abuses continued to enjoy general impunity; while millions of civilians have suffered as a result of the violence, only a handful of perpetrators have ever been brought to justice.

In 2011, army units were withdrawn from zones in North and South Kivu, to be trained before their redeployment. This left local communities with less protection, including many in areas which were already prone to insecurity; armed groups were accordingly able to retake old positions and attack civilians. At the end of the year, an estimated 540,000 people were displaced within North Kivu and 520,000 in South Kivu. South Kivu villagers also found refuge in neighbouring Maniema and Katanga, which hosted around 55,000 and 74,000 IDPs respectively at the end of the year.

There were also significant displacements in Orientale Province in 2011. Attacks in Lower Uele and Upper Uele Districts by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), land conflicts between different ethnic groups in Ituri District, and military operations against the ADF/NALU armed group in neighbouring North Kivu brought the number of IDPs in the province to over 340,000.

While some 800,000 people managed to return home between mid-2010 and mid-2011, few did so in the second half of 2011 because of heightened insecurity and the climate of uncertainty due to the impending elections.

Ethnic tensions and the occupation of IDPs' land also prevented their safe return. Many IDPs have sought to integrate in their place of displacement or settle elsewhere, following the destruction or occupation of their villages. However, there progress has not been monitored, with humanitarian organisations only following some return movements.

IDPs are dispersed in rural and urban areas, where they have either supported themselves or relied on the limited resources of host communities. As these communities have been increasingly unable to cope with the influx, IDPs in North Kivu have also been forced to take refuge either in informal camps or in formal camps managed by international NGOs and coordinated by UNHCR. Estimates of the number of IDPs outside camps have remained very approximate.

Most IDPs and returning IDPs have lacked access to basic services such as health care, education, water and sanitation and transportation infrastructure, and are in need of food, seeds, tools, clothes and building materials, in what was by 2011 the least developed country in the world. Protracted conflict and displacement have been identified as the main causes of food insecurity in eastern DRC. The conflict has also led to the disruption of education for many children.

A major challenge is that those with the most urgent need of assistance are increasingly dispersed and unreachable in remote and insecure areas.

Measures adopted by the central government and provincial authorities have not met the needs of IDPs. While the Ministry for Solidarity and Humanitarian Affairs is responsible for IDPs, there is no policy or legislation in place to guide its work, and it has rarely provided direct assistance to IDPs. Nonetheless, DRC has signed, but not ratified, the Kampala Convention, and has ratified the Great Lakes Pact.

The protection cluster led by UNHCR monitors the protection needs of conflict-affected populations including IDPs in the eastern provinces, and has called for better protection by military and civilian authorities, as well as the UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO.

While humanitarian funding in DRC grew six-fold between 2002 and 2010, from $98 million to $585 million, yearly humanitarian appeals have remained under-funded. In addition to emergency assistance, the government and the UN and its partners continued to implement their stabilisation plans for eastern DRC, which include the facilitation of the return and reintegration of IDPs and refugees.

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