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Helping LGBT+ refugees from armed conflict in Congo

Helping LGBT+ refugees from armed conflict in Congo

‘We hope that … pressure on neighboring Rwanda will lead to a truce’

M23 rebels in 2022. (Photo courtesy of AP)
M23 rebels in 2022. (Photo courtesy of AP)

Armed conflict in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has displaced more than a million people, with many of them fleeing from the Masisi area to camps for displaced civilians around the city of Goma.

Jérémie Safari, director of Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko (an association that defends the rights of sexual and gender minorities in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo), has turned to Erasing 76 Crimes to sound the alarm about the effects of the intensifying conflict on LGBT+ people.

While the conflict between Congolese armed forces and Rwandan-backed M23 rebels is worsening, homophobia continues to plague LGBT+ people, even in the camps for displaced civilians.

This war, which has been going on for 30 years, is largely over control of the region’s mineral wealth. The area contains 60% to 80% of the world’s reserves of columbite-tantalite ore (coltan), which is used in the manufacture of telephones and computers.

Aerial view, taken from a drone, of the Rusayo, Bulengo and Bushagara camps for displaced persons (Photo courtesy of @hughkinsellacunningham)

Safari stated:

In recent months, large-scale massacres have resumed in North Kivu and Ituri, causing villagers to flee to Goma, the region’s largest city.

Numerous camps for displaced persons have sprung up there, where the population lacks everything: drinking water, food and medicines. The risk of epidemics and cholera is greater than ever, despite the work of Médecins Sans Frontières on the ground.

Map of North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo shows Goma, Masisi and Kanyaruchinya.
Map of North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo shows Goma, Masisi and Kanyaruchinya.

On 17 February, we were alerted to the suicide of a lesbian who took her own life after being raped in the Kanyarushinya camp.

We have also been made aware of the ostracism and attacks experienced by some 58 displaced LGBT+ people whom our teams have been able to identify in the region, as we have an office in Goma.

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Frank Mugisha and other human rights activists await action from the Constitutional Court. (Photo courtesy Nicholas Opiyo / X)

In Bukavu, in South Kivu, at the headquarters of our NGO, we have also felt the shockwaves of the humanitarian crisis over the past few weeks, and 21 displaced members of the community are being temporarily housed on mattresses in our premises, in precarious conditions.

We hope that diplomatic negotiations and pressure on neighboring Rwanda will lead to a truce or ceasefire, to give the civilian population some breathing space.

However, while we wait for the fighting to end, we need support to feed, house and care for the people we are currently receiving, while anticipating that these flows will not dry up for a few months.

If you would like to get in touch with Rainbow Sunrise Mapambazuko to support them, please write to them here.

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