On February 7, 2023, United Nations (UN) peacekeepers killed eight Congolese civilians and wounded 28 others. The official statement from the military governor of North Kivu province was that UN troops fired ‘warning shots’ to defend its convoy from an attack launched by displaced civilians residing in Kanyaruchinya. The tragic loss resulted from the renewed fighting between the rebel military group, the March 23 Movement (M23), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) army.
The fighting has displaced thousands of citizens in the North Kivu province. These Congolese are still getting displaced, even though the conflict has spanned years and seen a brief ceasefire. The M23 resumed fighting after alleged attacks by armed groups allied with the DRC government.
Civilians who own mega-businesses in the DRC must actively offer help. The DRC is a growing economy, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few
To safeguard the lives of the displaced citizens, Felix Tshisekedi’s government needs to safely transport them out of conflict zones to more peaceful areas outside the eastern DRC. To effectively move people, the government needs to boost its capacity to provide aid outside foreign help. The government must also collaborate with wealthy citizens, who can partner with civil society groups to help displaced people.
For context, mutinous soldiers in the DRC military who were former members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) formed M23. The CNDP is an armed political group that accuses the DRC of marginalizing the ethnic Tutsi minority.
The DRC needs to consider a change in its approaches to tackling humanitarian crisis. The existing policies are ineffective due to a lack of resources. The Congolese people need the Ministry of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Actions, and National Solidarity to respond to the crisis. According to a United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report, the DRC humanitarian response is still underfunded.
The DRC has always received aid from foreign nations and humanitarian organizations. While it is okay to receive help, dependence on it weakens DRC’s national capacity. The government needs to lessen expenses and channel money to its humanitarian ministry to raise the DRC’s capacity and reduce reliance on foreign aid. To address the immediate suffering, the DRC government needs to form a ‘ways and means’ committee to propose emergency fundraising strategies, bringing in the money required for the rescue effort.
In the long run, the government needs to boost its budgetary allocation for the humanitarian ministry by creating targeted revenue. The government should draw up legislation enabling constituencies to build public amenities that citizens will pay for when they use them. The subnational governments should collect minimal money and pay them into a constitutionally protected reserve to fund the humanitarian ministry’s effort whenever needed.
Civilians who own mega-businesses in the DRC must actively offer help. The DRC is a growing economy, and wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few. According to the World Bank, nearly 64 percent of Congolese live on less than $2.15 a day. Voluntary individual efforts can save those displaced in North Kivu from the harshness of conflict.
Wealthy Congolese can raise money by setting up relief funds. The money raised can augment and boost the efforts of the DRC government or civil society organizations. For example, the money can go to groups such as Lutte Pour Le Changement (LUCHA) to help move people away from conflict hotspots and offer needed care. LUCHA was founded in 2012 in Goma. LUCHA describes itself as non-violent and non-partisan, “working to help displaced people in and around the city.” Such organizations operate at the grassroots and are better suited to distribute relief materials.
Above all, the DRC government must reassure her displaced citizens of tangible victory against M23 and a chance to return home. Reports point to a lack of trust in the efficiency of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While the ill-advised civilian attack on the UN convoy may have been a ploy to acquire weapons, it was another show of discontent. The government must better communicate its military efforts and progress to the people.
The DRC government must take care of its citizens who suffer humanitarian crises. For a country that has relied mainly on foreign relief, the DRC needs to increase local capacity to solve conflict-inflicted humanitarian problems. It is essential always to stay prepared to ensure the safety of those caught up in conflict.
Arinze Nwafor is a writing fellow at African Liberty.
Photo by Tobin Jones via Iwaria.