DRC: Patterns of violence and displacement

"We were taken hostage by the Mai-Mai...they burned all our houses and we had to go and live on our field...sometimes the FARDC would try to attack and then we had to flee to the bush." November 2005, Male, 48 yrs. "In the bush, we kept on moving. At night, every time we heard the Mai-Mai singing we packed our things and fled." June 2005, Female, 34 yrs

In the areas where MSF is working we have seen a total of 92,000 displaced who have fled their villages within the past year. They have sought refuge in Mitwaba, Mukubu, Dubie, Upemba, Kabangu, Lukuna, Kabalo and Pweto. In the last two years violence has provoked several waves of displacement in the Mitwaba - Upemba - Manono triangle.

  • In early 2004, political divisions among Mai-Mai factions sparked fighting among groups and counter attacks by the FARDC north of Mitwaba causing a major population exodus towards the forest and the south of the territory;
  • In March/April 2005, further fighting between Mai-Mai and military along the axes of Konga-Kintya and Dilenge-Mwema, left some 15,000 men, women and children spread across the camps and villages of Mitwaba, Mazombwe, Kasungeshi and Sampwe. In the zone around Kakonona, 6,000 persons also fled fighting;
  • In July/August just under 2,000 civilians fled towards Lukona from villages such as Mukunda, Kyabwe, Shamwana, Kamazanga, Kibemba and Kampangwe. Another 2,000 or so arrived in Dubie around the same time from villages including Mutendele, Kishale and Mpaza in particular;
  • In mid-November, following intensified military operations, 6,000 persons sought refuge in Dubie while a further 4,000 decamped to Kizabi near Pweto and another 5,000 to Kabalo.

    Over December/January, another 10,000 people made their way towards Dubie while the displaced in Mazombwe were forced to flee after an attack by Mai-Mai. Of the 3,000 original inhabitants, only 1,000 appear to have returned.

    Another 15,000 persons fled to the shores of Lake Upembe adding to an existing 20,000 displaced. And a further 6,500 persons to Sampwe and Mitwaba.

    "We fled Watumpembe, 40 kms to the north of Mitwaba. We were all dispersed in the bush. My mother took a different direction to the rest of us. I came with my big sister and her husband to Kasungeshi. I don't know where my mother or my brothers are." June 2005, Male, 14 yrs "Five children died. Two died around two years ago when we had to flee for the first time. They died in the bush because there wasn't enough food. The three others died in 2004, during the rainy season - in the same circumstances." December 2005, female, 40 yrs "In the bush we suffered a lot, sometimes we had only 1 meal per week...sometimes I had to walk for 30 km or more before finding some flour." Male, seven children; one died in the bush

    This massive movement of 92,000 persons during a period of just over a year has to be added to pre-existing levels of displacement in these and adjacent zones in central and northern Katanga - much of which remains unknown.

    II.1 Repeated Displacement - DRC

    For most of the people across central and northern Katanga, such upheavals and displacement have been a constant feature of their lives ever since the war started in 1998, and have continued to this day with the conflict between the Mai-Mai and Congolese army. Thousands of civilians have frequently been obliged to flee to their fields, following waves of abuse and violence. They have lived in their fields away from their villages for anything from a few days to several months - even up to one year - only then managing to return home.

    Some had perpetually been going back and forth from their village to their fields and back again - for nights, for weeks or longer. Still others had eventually decamped from their fields to the bush unwilling and/or unable to return to their villages; many had lived a life of continually fleeing from one bush area to another continually in search of safer refuge during one or several months.

    II.2 Family separation

    A number of IDPs told MSF of separation from family members en route, although where possible families tried to stay together carrying the ill, the elderly and the handicapped on bicycles.

    II.3 Family Loss

    Just as worrying are the high levels of mortality reported for the last few years. For the vast majority of the people in central and northern Katanga, only regular access to their fields allowed them to eke out a precarious existence.

    In the bush, they became dependent on scavenging wild foods and reported high levels of malnutrition and death among young children under five years old. This is borne out by the low numbers of under-fives in the camps of Dubie, once families had sought protection in Government-held zones.