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Humanitarian Issues in Ituri, Eastern DRC

Briefing/policy papers

The current situation in Ituri District, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has led some observers to compare it to the situation just before the Rwandan genocide, and warn that if action is not taken, there may be a danger of history repeating itself. Of course, the current situation in Ituri is not directly comparable to Rwanda in 1994. However, some parallels are apparent; mass, ethnically-based killings of civilians, and a late, possibly inadequate response on the part of the international community.

In 1996, ODI contributed to a major review of the international response to the Rwanda genocide. This Briefing Note draws on lessons from the Joint Evaluation, HPG research and independent work on the region to examine the current situation in Ituri from a humanitarian perspective. It is aimed at a wide audience, including those unfamiliar with the situation in Ituri or humanitarian policy debates. Of course, whilst international attention is focused on Ituri, humanitarian needs in the rest of DRC should not be forgotten. This briefing focuses on Ituri, but the situation in North and South Kivu is equally
alarming.

The briefing highlights three main issues:
• The needs of civilians in Ituri and the rest of DRC are above all for protection from violence, conflict and displacement. The key issue is therefore one of humanitarian protection.
• The scope and mandates of the current international interim force and MONUC appear insufficient to provide meaningful humanitarian protection. A key related question is the extent to which the parties to the conflict can be pressured to respect international humanitarian and human rights law.
• The lessons from a decade of conflict in the region are clear. Effective political action to resolve the conflict is vital, but the need for adequate humanitarian assistance and protection for civilians must be separately considered and given equal attention and importance.