Stop the Forgotten Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (PHOTOS)

(Washington, D.C.) November 14, 2012 -- Communities in Masisi district in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been displaced on a daily basis and at least 18 have been murdered, caught between attacks by opposing rebel groups. The UN peacekeeping forces (MONUSCO) and the Congolese army must intervene to protect the civilian population.

For six months, MONUSCO forces have supported the Congolese army in suppressing the rebellion by the March 23 Movement (M23) in the nearby district of Rutshuru. Focused on responding to the threat caused by M23 rebels, the Congolese army left several parts of Masisi district unprotected, conceding freedom of movement to rebel groups - some allied with M23.

More than 320,000 people have been forcibly displaced in North Kivu, many by the violence in Masisi.

"This has caused an unjustifiable lack of protection for the population in Masisi district. While it is clearly necessary that civilians attacked by M23 be protected, this should not happen at the cost of innocent lives -- mainly women and children -- elsewhere in the region. The population feels abandoned by MONUSCO forces which has failed in its mandate," said a JRS staff member in Masisi.

Democratic Republic of Congo: stop the forgotten conflict in Masisi

A climate of fear currently reigns in the Hutu and Hunde communities in Masisi. Increased attention needs to be urgently provided by the international community, one which answers the pleas for security and humanitarian aid and pushes Congolese political, civil and military authorities to guarantee the protection of these populations. Otherwise free reign will continue to be given to militias responsible for the killing of innocent children, women and men.

In Masisi, Jesuit Refugee Service works in five official and non-official camps for internally displaced people, offering formal and informal education and emergency assistance. In addition to the construction and renovation of schools, JRS teams provide education materials and teacher training in 84 schools. Special attention is paid to the needs of women. Literacy courses and skills training are provided for women, many of whom are victims of sexual violence.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is an international NGO whose mission is to accompany, serve and defend the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.