The World Has Not Been Paying Attention, Congo’s Humanitarian Crisis Equal To Syria

Public services are at the breaking point following the violent expulsion of 300,000 Congolese from Angola. The Kasai region within The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has been embroiled in conflict since 2016, now being concentrated in only a few small pockets. Tensions remain high with ethnic divisions threatening to plunge the region into further violence with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) reporting people are unable to return home due to inter-ethnic hostilities.

The Kasai region, once one of the most prosperous and peaceful in the DRC descended into violence in June 2016. Long-simmering resentment against local authorities exploded into rebellion with chief Kamwina Nsapu calling an uprising with aims to remove all state institutions in the region. Following his death, the conflict escalated descending into ethnic violence; with child soldiers consisting half of the rebel forces. The UN stated in December 2018 that the crisis was on the highest level of emergency, equal to that of Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Reports vary wildly with the UN placing the conflict has taken 3,000 lives and displaced 1.4 – 1.7 million people. Many Congolese sought refuge in Angola though, following December’s violent eviction, 330,000 Congolese have returned threatening the already unstable region. The Norwegian Refugee Council reports that though many have returned home, 1.3 million people remain displaced.

Humanitarian aid remains limited, James Copnall reporter for BBC news states “The number of displaced people is shocking… The world hasn’t been paying attention”. Failure in accommodating the massive influx of returning Congolese risks the greater Kasai region falling back into chaos. NRC DRC Country Director Ulrika Blom explains “The expulsion of Congolese from Angola is truly shocking and risks destabilizing the situation in Kasai, several hundred thousand people flooding across the border to the Congo puts an even greater strain on an already dire humanitarian situation”. The Congo Humanitarian Response Plan remains severely under-resourced, running on half the required funds.  “Lacklustre donor response to the overall humanitarian crisis in DR Congo has come to haunt us with this latest emergency at the Congo-Angola border,” said Blom. “This is not a crisis that is about to begin, it is a full-blown emergency. The international community must urgently increase the funding for humanitarian assistance”.

The current state of the crisis leaves over a quarter of a million children suffering from severe malnutrition according to the UN Children Fund (UNICEF). The Congolese government condemns Angolan authorities for their violent expulsion which it denies. Pedro Sebastiao Angolan state minister stated that all Congolese migrants left voluntarily. Restoring peace in the DRC is no easy task, widespread international attention is required to tackle the crisis. Few news agencies have correspondents in the country, the DRC is often overlooked, lacking any strategic significance, the country consistently ranks in the top 10 worst countries in the world. Its violent history and its continual decline cannot get any better without international aid which it so desperately needs.

Jonno McPike