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Camp closure in North Kivu: Government counterpart at the heart of the process

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Camp closure in North Kivu: Government counterpart at the heart of the process

As an important phase of the resumption of a normal life in an environment affected by crises generating the creation of camps and camp-like settings, the closure of displacement sites has been a challenge for nearly ten years in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The context in which humanitarian coordination occurs, in particular the multiple displacements of internally displaced persons (IDPs), consequence of a protracted instability in eastern DRC, has always been an obstacle to the implementation of durable solutions.

Late 2013, many villages were secured by DRC armed forces, in the Rutshuru and Nyiragongo Territories. The authorities therefore undertook an initiative to help families return to their places of origin. To assist the authorities in playing their role in line with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the CCCM Coordination[1], with the support of the Protection Cluster and other stakeholders, designed a technical capacity building plan to reinforce the Congolese governmental entities on CCCM standards and guidelines, especially on voluntary return processes and the life cycle of a camp.

Between December 2013 and February 2014, the Guidelines on returns, contextualized to North Kivu and inspired by the Guiding Principles and international protection legal instruments, were jointly drafted by the authorities and the humanitarian community.  Having understood the causes and consequences of the failure of their first attempts to implement a return process in North Kivu, the Provincial Department of Justice, the humanitarian Division and the National Commission for Refugees[2], adopted the document and made the decision to pilot its implementation. Towards the end of 2014, the authorities consulted CCCM actors and the inter-cluster community to put together a plan aiming at gradually consolidating and closing IDP camps in the Province. With increased security challenges and protection concerns in the displacement sites, the planned and organized site closure process appeared to be more and more relevant to the authorities.  Therefore, it was decided to offer a variety of options to the IDPs, including voluntary return to the village of origin, local integration, resettlement to another area or transfer to an existing camp. Through this new initiative, over 1,500 households coming from Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories were able to return to their area of origin in 2014.

Early 2015, the authorities, with the support of the CCCM Sector, led the consolidation and closure of two camps in the outskirts of Goma (Nzulo and Buhimba). Following this success, another operation was undertaken in September 2015, allowing the closure of three additional displacement sites (Lac Vert, Lusuli and Shasha). 

The sensitization and consultation of the three thousand IDPs involved in the process were conducted by the Government, through the CNR, which was supported by humanitarian actors, particularly camp managers and CCCM Coordination.

CNR officials have become a competent and reliable technical resource of the Government[3], ensuring that camp closure operations respect key humanitarian principles and the dignity of the beneficiaries throughout the process. Being now built with the necessary knowledge and means for the accomplishment of their responsibilities to protect and assist their displaced populations, state actors in the DRC now stand at the center of all strategic humanitarian discussions.  

The authorities have also created a durable solutions task force[4], under the management of the provincial Minister of Plan, with the objective of developing a strategy and action plan on durable solutions for IDPs in the Province.  

Conscious that many IDPs are still not able to return or resettle somewhere due to the persisting instability, Congolese authorities took the lead in negotiating lands for agriculture in displacement areas, thus empowering the IDPs self-reliance. With the support of FAO, WFP and CCCM Coordination agencies, community farming activities have been launched in September 2015.

There are still nearly 700,000 internally displaced persons in North Kivu. About 190.860[5] live in the 53 displacement sites administered by the CNR.


Text: CCCM Sector Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo: UNHCR/2013

[1] CCCM Coordination in North Kivu is represented by UNHCR and IOM.

[2] The National Commission for Refugees (Commission Nationale pour les Réfugiés - CNR), which is part of the National Ministry of Interior, is in charge of camp administration in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

[3] CNR improvements and efforts have been highlighted by Brookings-LSE in December 2014: P. 7-10

[4] Forum pour les Solutions Durables (FOSOD)

[5] Number as of 25/01/2016