UNITED NATIONS, Mar 6 2015 (IPS) – Parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo are as dangerous and lawless as ever, with police and the state offering citizens little or no protection from armed groups.
‘Secure Insecurity,’ a report released Friday by Oxfam, claims citizens in some parts of the DRC are “forced to pay for protection that the state should be providing to its citizens as their right.”
The report says some police charge citizens for their services – US$5 to report a crime, US$10 or up to the equivalent of US$40 to investigate – but even when state protection is freely available, it is often ineffective.
“As a woman in her early thirties told Oxfam: ‘When I went to see the chief about a case of rape in our district, the chief told me that justice doesn’t concern women’,” the report stated.
Stories included in the report also claim the Congolese army and police regularly beat and assault citizens.
Oxfam says the report “reveals how little progress has been made towards building legitimate and credible state authority in many parts of eastern DRC, a disturbing conclusion.”
One woman from the Ruzizi Plain area of Uvira is quoted as saying “we don’t know where to turn, we just want some fresh air; we want peace.”
Oxfam claims “the world’s attention largely moved away from the [DRC]” in February 2013, after the signing of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, in which the government promised to reform security services and build the state’s authority nationwide.
However, a series of renewed conflicts between rival army and militia groups since October 2014 have killed 250 people in the country’s east.
Militia groups have also demanded crops from farmers, set up illegal roadblocks and charged money for passage through, and extorted money from vendors returning from markets. State officials have also been accused of extortion, forced labor, and demanding payment for protection.
‘The population needs to live in peace and security in the areas that are under our [the government’s] control,” a police commander in North Kivu told Oxfam.
“We have deployed a police unit, but it’s too small to assure the security of the population on that hill.”
Conflicts over land, between different ethnic groups, has also led to “theft and slaughter of livestock, killings, kidnappings, destruction and expropriation of fields, preventing access to land and forced displacement.”
Oxfam urged the Congolese government to make the provision of state services in rural areas a priority, as well as reform security services, and ensure security and military salaries are paid.