The situation in the Democractic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is calm but tense following the arrest of Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda. Rwandan soldiers arrested Gen Nkunda in Rwanda just days after other Rwandan troops crossed the border into the DRC. The surprise arrest is an about-turn by Rwanda, indicating Rwanda is apparently now an ally of the Congolese government.
CWS continues to support ACT International relief operations in Goma. The UN has advised agencies to cancel most movement to areas outside of Goma, and has suspended its own operations outside Goma. However, ACT International representative in Goma, Anna Muinonen, says Rwandan soldiers are operating in a different area to where ACT International is working and so assistance continues.
Gen Nkunda fled to the Rwandan side when armed clashes north of his base, Rutshuru, took place on Thursday. He is still being held by Rwanda, which is due to hand him over to the Congolese authorities. The joint operation of Congolese and Rwandan troops against Gen Nkunda’s FDLR is ongoing. The operation is to last 15 days, during which the alliance of Congolese and Rwandan troops, and other rebel groups will pressure the FDLR to disarm voluntarily and to “repatriate” to Rwanda.
ACT International works among the so-called ‘invisible’ displaced families and the increasingly vulnerable communities which are hosting them. Initial plans for assistance include support for an estimated 27,000 people, as well as water and sanitation for significantly more families.
While official figures of newly-displaced people in crowded camps around Goma are still being determined, another reality of displacement remains in the shadows: the thousands of families which have opened their modest homes to fleeing strangers. Although these displaced people do not appear to be immediately at risk of malnutrition and disease like those jammed into camps, they are weighing on the meagre resources of their hospitable host families — and feeling undignified for having to do so.
In addition to poor shelter conditions for some families, the vulnerability of host communities is also increasing. As those who fled arrive in host towns, the need for firewood can double or triple for long periods of time and the surrounding environment is beginning to suffer deforestation.
CWS is supporting ACT International’s work. Donate online or contact CWS 0800 74 73 72.