More people fled conflict in DR Congo than in Syria and Iraq last year

Violence in the DRC.
Violence in the DRC.
Image: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya
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The civil wars may be over but life is anything but normal for people in large swathes of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In 2016, around 922,000 people—the highest number of displaced people due to conflict recorded globally—fled their homes in DRC, according to data from the latest Global Report on Internal Displacement by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

Much of the displacement in DRC is linked to the country’s political instability with president Joseph Kabila refusing to leave office after the end of his tenure last December. Political tensions were heightened much earlier as the elections, initially slated for November 2016, have now been postponed with the country’s budget minister saying the DRC cannot afford the $1.8 billion cost of the elections.

Kabila’s decision has stoked ethnic tensions resulting in militia clashes and numerous protests. In one of such protests back in December, more than 50 people were killed, evoking fears that the political crisis could result in another civil war, just over ten years after the most recent one which saw more than 5 million people killed between 1994 and 2003. Since its independence in 1960, the DRC  has never experienced a smooth transfer of power.

While DRC saw the most displacement caused by conflict, globally, there were 6.9 million new internal displacements caused by conflict and violence in 2016. Significantly, Sub-Saharan Africa surpassed the Middle East to become the most affected region, despite Syria, Iraq and Yemen accounting for almost two million new displacements in 2016. Asides from the DRC, incidents across the continent have seen Africa become the most affected region. Nigeria, where a fight against Boko Haram continues across the northeast, and South Sudan, where a fragile peace pact has been broken are among worrying flash-points on the continent.

Since 2000, the number of displaced people due to violence and conflict has nearly doubled, according to IDMC. By the end of 2016, around 40.3 million people across the world were displaced by conflict and violence, the report says.