Global Policy Forum

Presentation to the Arria Formula Briefing - DRC - Oxfam


By Nicola Reindorp

Oxfam International
April 25, 2002


On behalf of my colleagues and Oxfam's partners in DRC, I would like to thank the Missions of France for this chance to brief the Council once again. You have before you a short briefing paper. I will touch on some of the Oxfam's key concerns.

There have some positive developments in DRC since the Council's last visit to the Great Lakes in May 2001. The ceasefire has held along the former "frontline." Humanitarian agencies have gained access to hitherto inaccessible areas such as Kabinda, Boende, Ikela, and Pweto in western DRC, and have been able to provide much needed assistance to the most vulnerable people. Donors' prompt response to the eruption of Mt. Nyarogongo helped prevent a serious humanitarian disaster.

Yet the failure of the Inter Congolese dialogue to reach a definitive solution in Sun City has caused despair. Oxfam staff and partners believe there is a real risk of a further descent into war.

In Eastern DRC, away from the frontlines, there is no peace. In places such as Kindu, Shabunda, Ituri and Walungu, despite the ceasefire agreement, fighting continues between all warring parties.

As a result, the humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate in a country where the death toll is already estimated to be a staggering two million lives in the last four years. 16 million people face daily food shortages. Among children aged under 5, in parts of North and South Kivu, global malnutrition rates reach 20%. Authoritative sources have suggested that HIV/AIDs infection rates may be as high as 24% of the population on certain areas.

Attacks on civilians are a daily occurrence. Rape and sexual violence are commonplace. Around 2.3 million people are displaced from their homes and the numbers of IDPs are rising. For example, in Ituri where Oxfam works, 80,000 people have been newly displaced since January as a consequence of a dramatic increase in violence against civilians.

Humanitarian agencies struggle to assist, but the lack of access due to insecurity is a key problem. In Shabunda for example, there have been 7 evacuations by NGOs in the last two months. In areas such as in Equateur, it is difficult and costly logistics that hampers effective assistance from humanitarian agencies. The fact that the UN Consolidated Appeal is only 11% funded has a direct impact on response. For example, WFP has had to cease flights between Goma and Kinshasa. Weak UN humanitarian coordination does not help matters.

Such human suffering is directly linked to the continuing conflict. Vitally, it is now increasingly recognized that such conflict is fuelled – if not driven – by the interests of all warring parties in exploiting DRC's vast natural resources. Oxfam knows from our work across DRC how troop presence has coincided with escalating trade in key commodities such as coltan, cassiterite, diamonds, gold and timber. What Oxfam also sees - in places such as Ituri and Kindu – is that while ‘military commercialism' is rife, the people of DRC continue to lose out.

Human Rights Watch will elaborate on the situation in Ituri – the forgotten corner of DRC's war. Oxfam observes a similar situation in Kindu and Kalima. Mai Mai groups have continued to attack RCD positions, reportedly to stop the exploitation by Rwandans of the cassiterite in this area. The fighting has forced 35,000 people to flee their homes since July 2001. Meanwhile, the cassiterite is going directly by air to Kigali. None of the mining profits are invested in local infrastructure. Malnutrition is high, health centres are barely operational and schools function only sporadically.

Even where local communities have been involved in the mining, it has had disastrous effects. At the height of "coltan fever" in 2000, the mineral was selling for $380 per pound. In Masisi, the hub of coltan mining in DRC, agriculture, pastoral activities, and school attendance were all abandoned by the local population in favour of mining. Prostitution increased. Mines collapsed on workers trapped inside. Decreased cultivation and soaring food prices increased malnutrition and food insecurity. The vast natural riches of DRC continue to be the source of misery, not prosperity for all but an elite few.

MONUC has a key role to play to expose the consistent and continuing violations of human rights and IHL that are being perpetrated by warring parties as they pursue their profits. Yet due to its limited capacity to monitor and report, MONUC is unable to cover even those areas worst affected by violent conflict, such as Ituri. MONUC also needs to monitor not just the behaviour of signatories to the Lusaka Accords, but also that of non-signatories and to be more robust about determining when and where it can monitor.

In the wake of Sun City and as the Council members depart on their timely mission, DRC is at a critical juncture.

Oxfam therefore asks the UN Security Council to:


  • Engage in sustained shuttle diplomacy with all parties in pursuit of resolution to the conflict in the DRC. Oxfam believes that the appointment of a high profile to coordinate this diplomacy could also move parties towards a Great Lakes regional conference focused on regional security and economic concerns.
  • We ask the Council to insist that all Lusaka accord signatories to honour both the Accords, and their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect all civilians in areas under their control and ensure their access to humanitarian assistance.
  • The Council should urge donors to provide assistance commensurate with need in DRC and press the UN IASC to appoint a senior UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for eastern DRC.
  • The presence of MONUC observers in eastern DRC should urgently be increase, in particular in Shabunda, Walungu, Kanyabayonga, Fizi, Walikali, Muliro, and Ituri.

    Lastly, the 'wait and see' approach of the Council and the rest of the international community towards the exploitation of natural resources must not continue beyond the third report of the UN Panel of Experts due later this year. It is clear that responsibility for resolving these wars lies not just within Africa, but also with the governments of Northern countries who need to take a much tougher stance in dealing with companies who profit from the exploitation and greed at the cost of huge human suffering.

    Thank you.



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