Samy Badibanga, ex-Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo issues an urgent appeal for an international donor conference:
As honorary prime minister of the DRC, I join the urgent appeal by the Catholic and Protestant churches in the Congo issued to the international community for an international donor conference for Kasai. A humanitarian operation in Kasai is necessary to put an end to a tragic humanitarian situation. We must put aside the question of the elections and stop looking at the Congo merely for its mineral wealth. The violence, insecurity and indiscriminate massacres that are terrorising the population mean that international action in the Congo must be reviewed in full. There is large-scale abuse of basic human rights. The terrorist acts committed against UN investigators and peacekeepers in 2017 must not weaken our resolve. Quite the contrary, as the core values of the United Nations Charter are being put to the test in Kasai. To restore them, urgent humanitarian action is required to bring at least food and medical assistance. Given the cruel lack of resources resulting from a neglected crisis, we need an international donor conference. The Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s second most populous country with nearly 100 million inhabitants. The United Nations’ 2030 Agenda will never be achieved without substantial humanitarian progress in the DRC. And that is what is at stake today in Kasai.
According to the World Food Programme, 250,000 children will die if they don’t receive food aid urgently. The joint declaration made by the Congolese Catholic and Protestant churches in Kinshasa on Human Rights Day, December 10th, should serve as an alarm call for the international community. Through them and their networks in the field, urgent action is possible if the funding is there. Over 10 billion dollars’ worth of copper and cobalt are mined in the country every year for export. According to Global Witness, only 6% of the total value of mining exports reaches the State budget. So how can you explain to the Congolese people in Kasai that the international community is incapable of raising 812 million dollars for the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for the DRC?
Since the beginning of 2017, the number of people displaced because of violence in the Congo has doubled from two to four million, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Congolese population in Kasai, Kivu and Tanganyika need not only emergency humanitarian aid, in the form of food and medical assistance, but also post-emergency aid, particularly to stabilise Kasai and Kivu. The gravity of the current situation, the distress of millions of women and children, demands an international donor conference to mobilise funds and provide urgent food and medical assistance to the affected populations.
One year after Kasai was hit by an explosion of violence, even though the violence is subsiding, the population has gone from extreme poverty to level 3 extreme humanitarian emergency. Whilst some of those who fled have gradually returned, the time to launch a major humanitarian operation has come, for which the Congolese State, weakened and battered by a severe economic crisis, has not the means to fund. The time has come to call for world solidarity and on the generosity of the international community to mobilise urgent humanitarian aid to the Congo and thus rescue a population in absolute distress.
The intensity of violence and humanitarian crisis assailing the Congolese population is unparalleled on our planet. Throughout the country, there are 4 million displaced persons. This figure tops 1.4 million in Kasai. There are 957,000 displaced persons in Kivu, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The violence and humanitarian crisis in Kasai particularly affect women and children, and over a million of them are directly exposed to famine. Moreover, Médecins Sans Frontières states that “the Kasai crisis been completely neglected”. Only 151 of the 812 million dollars of the humanitarian plan for the country have been financed.
Located in the centre of the country, with lands rich with diamonds yet severely lacking infrastructure, and ravaged by barbaric inexplicable violence for a year, Kasai needs a high level of expertise in the handling of crisis and humanitarian emergency situations. The population has an immediate need for food to avoid a famine. The people also need urgent medical assistance for the victims of violence and diseases. In addition to the wounded, cholera has been spreading in twenty of the country’s twenty-six provinces. The DRC is fortunate to have an immense network of churches and Monusco, which could have a crucial role in deploying emergency humanitarian aid with an force of nearly twenty thousand individuals and substantial levels of equipment.
In addition to urgent aid, the post-emergency phase must also be prepared. We understand how “cash for work” operations can help a population to recover its dignity and provide subsistence whilst improving, for instance, local access roads, which are crucial for reviving agriculture. This is also the best way of preventing unemployed youth living in extreme poverty from being lured into armed conflicts.
Whilst 77 people escape extreme poverty in Asia every minute, every minute in the DRC 3.6 people fall into extreme poverty. Achieving the sustainable development goals is a particularly ambitious objective in central Africa, where the DRC is the largest country with a forecast population of 120 million in 2030. However, the conflicts and violence in the different regions in the DRC stall progress towards fulfilment of the UN’s 2030 Agenda. How can Africa hope to achieve the sustainable development goals if the DRC is unable to do so? How can a population focus on climate change with no food, work or roofs to sleep under after attacks have ravaged their villages?
For all these reasons, as ex-prime minister, citizen and elected representative of my country, I hereby call on the international community to heed the appeal by the churches for an international conference of donors for Kasai. I know that the Congolese people are not alone in being affected by a serious humanitarian crisis. However, no country at peace has so many displaced persons. I know that the capacities for intervention and global solidarity allow swift action to assist a population that, already trapped by extreme poverty, has been ravaged by atrocious acts of violence preventing them from providing for their basic needs. We can move swiftly with the immense network of Catholic and Protestant churches across the Congo, and Monusco. And we must move swiftly. In this 21stcentury, the international community knows how to mobilise itself to come to the aid of a population in distress. And it is to that community that this urgent humanitarian appeal for an international donor conference for Kasai is addressed.
Distributed by APO Group