Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Democratic Republic of the Congo

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 29 April 2013
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Democratic Republic of the Congo, 29 April 2013, available at: [accessed 20 January 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.
Number of IDPsAbout 2,700,000
Percentage of total populationAbout 3.9%
Start of displacement situation1996
Peak number of IDPs (year)3,400,000 (2003)
New displacement in 2012At least 1,000,000
Causes of displacementx International armed conflict
✓ Internal armed conflict
✓ Deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement
✓ Communal violence
✓ Criminal violence
x Political violence
Human development index186
Kampala ConventionSigned

There were about 2.7 million IDPs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as of December 2012, a million more than at the end of 2011. The dramatic increase in displacement was caused by a major upsurge in violence. The majority of IDPs fled either from or within DRC's eastern provinces, with North and South Kivu, Orientale, Katanga and Maniema hosting the largest numbers.

The majority of the estimated 1.79 million IDPs in the Kivus have experienced protracted and multiple displacements. Many have fled at least twice, with some having done so more than three times over the past year alone.

Violence in the Kivus has also driven IDPs into the Ituri region of Orientale province, which currently hosts as many as 500,000. This includes up to 347,000 people displaced by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in more than 138 attacks in Upper and Lower Uele districts. The number of IDPs has also increased in Katanga and Maniema, which currently host more than 277,000 and 92,000 respectively. For Katanga, this represents a four-fold increase over the course of the year. There are also 7,000 IDPs in Equateur province.

Despite considerable aid, civilians' protection risks continue to increase in eastern DRC, with protracted and multiple displacements gradually breaking down social cohesion as communities turn to ethnic and local non-state armed groups for safety. This has fuelled inter-ethnic tension, in which IDPs are directly targeted for perceived allegiance to one party or another to the conflict. The result is a self-perpetuating trend towards ethnic homogenisation, further break down in social cohesion and frequent reprisal attacks against civilians, with fewer and fewer safe havens for IDPs.

Growing mobilisation of local self-defence militias has added to insecurity against a backdrop of weak rule of law and an absence of any real protection. Despite having the strongest mandate of any UN peacekeeping force to date, MONUSCO is widely considered to have failed to provide civilians with sufficient protection on a number of occasions.

Members of all armed actors in DRC continue to act with impunity. Widespread violations include killings, sexual exploitation, abduction, forced conscription of children, forced labour, looting, illegal taxation, plundering and widespread harassment.

IDPs tend to be widely dispersed across large rural areas and in towns and cities, where aid agencies struggle to identify and access them. The levels of assistance IDPs receive depends on whether they are living in "formal" government-recognised camps, informal settlements or with host communities. Returns movements are therefore extremely difficult to monitor, although as many as 450,000 are estimated to have returned during 2012.

Multiple displacement means many IDPs' coping strategies are at breaking point, and increasing numbers have moved to formal or informal camps in the hope of receiving better assistance. Host communities' resources have also been depleted, themselves often having been displaced and already saturated with large numbers of IDPs. Years of insecurity have had a devastating impact on peoples' livelihoods, and food insecurity remains a key challenge.

Safety and security is a serious concern, even in formal camps. In November 2012, rumours of an impending attack saw a camp of more than 50,000 people on the outskirts of Goma empty overnight. Reports also suggest IDPs are frequent victims of gender-based and sexual violence.

Given the generalised insecurity, institutional failure and weak rule of law, the difficulties facing humanitarian agencies are significant. The logistical challenges in attempting to reach an extremely large, mobile and multi-ethnic target group add a further layer of complexity, and IDPs' needs are not being met.

2012 saw the beginnings of discussion around the development of a national policy on IDPs, but the government currently has no clear national legislation in place to guide its response to displacement. DRC has ratified the Great Lakes Pact, but steps to integrate its provisions into national policy and practice remain limited. The recent entry into force of the Kampala Convention which DRC has signed but not yet ratified and the development of a national policy offer key opportunities for strengthening national response.

2012 saw a relative drop in humanitarian funding requests, reflecting a focus on longer-term stabilisation activities. This focus, however, was revised over the course of the year and a total of more than $540 million was provided for humanitarian activities, in part following an emergency appeal which helped to secure 56% of the overall funding requested.

The targeting and delivery of aid does not adequately respond to the needs of IDPs. In particular, better understanding of the impact of multiple displacement is needed to enable a more targeted response, and the provision of aid must become more flexible to enable sustained engagement through the entire cycle of displacement if needs are to be met.

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