In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) there is a humanitarian crisis that regional and international powers have allowed to fester. It has led to people abandoning their homes because of fighting between the M23 rebel group and the government last month. According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 800,000 people have now been displaced by the conflict since last March.
Failed attempts to secure a ceasefire have allowed fighting to continue unabated between M23 and government troops in a region already scarred by the presence of dozens of armed groups.
Emmanuel Lampaert, the DRC coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières in central Africa, said the conflict has created a heavy humanitarian burden.
“It’s the same places, the same filthy conditions. Families living in self-made small settlements, unworthy, inhuman,” Lampaert said. "...Suddenly, after one year, they’re saying they want to stop this crisis being forgotten. My question is, where the hell have you been?” he said.
Thomas Fessy, a senior DRC researcher for Human Rights Watch, said M23 had left behind a “trail of war crimes”.
“We’ve documented horrific crimes that M23 rebels committed against civilians, including summary executions and forced recruitment,” he said. “The warring parties have increasingly appealed to ethnic loyalties, putting civilians in remote areas of Masisi and Rutshuru at a heightened risk, and pitting communities against each other.”
Jean-Mobert Senga, a researcher for Amnesty International in DRC, said the violence could worsen this year. “No one seems concerned with addressing the real causes and drivers of the conflict, including widespread impunity for serious atrocities committed in the DRC for nearly 30 years, endemic corruption, or poor governance in the DRC.
“The focus on the M23, which is just one of hundreds of armed groups that kill, rape and loot every day, is proof of the cynical approach in eastern DRC that only prolongs the suffering of millions of men, women and children on the frontlines of the conflict.”
UNHCR has asked for $233m (£192m) to support its work, but only 8% has been pledged.