(Chris Chapman is Conflict Prevention Officer at Minority Rights Group International. He is the author of “Why a minority rights approach to conflict: the case of Southern Sudan”. Any opinions expressed are his own.)
Probably the most toxic aspect of the current conflict in North Kivu is that, as in Iraq and Sudan and other countries, the protection civilians get from violence often depends on which ethnic group they belong to.
The FARDC – the national army – has fled Goma, unable to stem the advance of Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). The UN peacekeeping mission is desperately calling for more resources, and in the past has been accused of failing to protect civilians.
In this security vacuum, leaders such as Nkunda are able to play on the grievances of their communities to recruit militias, even if their real motivations are about controlling mines and trade. Nkunda says he is fighting because of the abuses his people, the Tutsi, have suffered.
The Tutsi do have legitimate grievances, notably they have been the victims of a number of pogroms in the 1990s. But they certainly do not have the monopoly on suffering in North Kivu. To cite one example, the Mbuti Pygmies, an indigenous people in the Kivus and Ituri, has no militia to protect it; it has been targeted by armed groups, and subjected to massive human rights violations – torture, displacement and the rape of women and children.