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Priorities and Security

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Among the survey’s primary objectives was to understand respondents’ priorities for moving forward toward reconstruction and development. Specifically, the survey asked respondents to evaluate their quality of life and identify, by order of importance, their top three current priorities and what they believed should be the top three priority areas of the government and the international community.

Respondents in eastern DRC generally felt their quality of life was getting worse. Only 13 percent ranked their current quality of life as good or very good, and most felt their lives currently were the same (42%) or worse (39%) compared to before the 2002 peace agreement, and the same (51%) or worse (31%) compared to before the 2006 presidential elections. This perceived deterioration indicates a generally pessimistic outlook. Nevertheless, over two-thirds of respondents believed the government was working to bring security (72%) and peace (74%) in eastern Congo. Fewer believed the government was working to improve their lives (56%) and less than half believed that the government was fighting corruption (44%) and impunity (48%).

Peace (51%) and security (34%) were the most frequently reported priorities, followed by livelihood concerns, including money (27%), education (26%), and food and water (26%). These priorities highlight the fact that security is yet to be achieved in eastern Congo and basic needs remain unsatisfied for most, against a backdrop where 93 percent of the sampled individuals reported income below US$2/day.

Figure 2: Eastern DRC respondents’ top priorities

Figure 2 - Eastern DRC respondents’ top priorities

Consistent with findings from prior comparable research,[1] justice, reintegration, and reconciliation are not major priorities among respondents when peace and security are not yet met and basic needs are not satisfied. With their immediate priorities set on these goals, few respondents identified providing justice (2%) or arresting those responsible for violence (2%), punishing those responsible (1%), or encouraging reconciliation (1%) as their most pressing concerns.

In terms of what respondents thought should be the priorities of the government (the survey did not specify what level of government, whether local, provincial, or central), peace (45%) and security (42%) were once again most frequently identified. In the context of this question, only one in ten considered that promoting justice should be a priority of the government, citing justice (10%) and arresting (6%) or punishing (5%) those responsible. Among livelihood priorities, social services were most important, including education (32%), development (21%), and health (19%). Food and water, and to a lesser extent, money and the economy/employment, were mentioned as government priorities compared to respondents’ own priorities.

Figure 3: What should be the top priorities of the Congolese government?

Figure 3 - What should be the top priorities of the Congolese government?

When asked what the priorities of the international community should be, respondents in eastern DRC most frequently saw it as a provider of assistance. Respondents listed most frequently that development (36%), money or income (28%), and food/water (23%) should be among the international community’s priorities. Respondents viewed the international community’s role as providing assistance rather than peace and security, which were more often cited as priorities for the Congolese government (see Figures 2 and 3), despite the mandate and presence of MONUC[2] forces in eastern DRC. This could mean that respondents either viewed MONUC forces as being ineffective at providing peace and security, held traditional views of the international community as assisting development, or that Congolese believe that it is the responsibility of the Congolese government and actors to stop fighting and provide peace and security themselves.

Figure 4: What should be the top priorities of the international community?

Figure 4 - What should be the top priorities of the international community?


In light of ongoing armed conflict, the population of eastern DRC experiences the lack of security by fearing for their individual safety and physical integrity in their daily lives. Most respondents in eastern DRC cited security, or the lack of fighting, as among their own top priorities (34%); furthermore, 42 percent of respondents in eastern DRC believed security should be a priority of the government, and 19 percent believed it should be a priority of the international community. These figures reflect both the ongoing fighting at the time of the survey and the volatility of the situation in eastern Congo. To examine the security situation further, respondents in eastern DRC were asked to rank their sense of safety in a range of situations.

Unsurprisingly, respondents in South Kivu and Ituri felt safer, on average, than those in North Kivu for all the proposed situations. This reflects the ongoing battles involving the FDLR, the troops of Laurent Nkunda, and governmental troops (FARDC) in North Kivu at the time of the survey. Generally, respondents felt least safe when meeting soldiers or armed groups (22% felt safe or very safe), reflecting the chaos and impending threat of multiple belligerent forces and the difficulties that the country is facing in reforming its security sector. Respondents also felt unsafe when meeting strangers (39%), and walking at night (38%). Thirty percent felt unsafe talking openly about their experience during the conflict, which may not only indicate a general distrust but also unresolved psychological fears. Globally, the lack of perceived safety seems to affect normal functioning of individuals and also the society as a whole.

Table 2: Sense of safety

Table 2 - Sense of safety

The survey further asked respondents who, in their view, protected them (see Table 3). (Respondents could provide only one response.) One-third of all respondents in eastern DRC said the national Congolese army (FARDC) protected them and about a third of respondents said “God/Jesus” (31%) or “nobody” (6%) protected them. The survey included “God/Jesus” as a choice here for several reasons. For one, the Congolese population is religious, with the majority being Catholic or Protestant. The survey results on this question may reflect the respondents’ religious faith. The strong showing on this question, however, may also reflect the respondents’ lack of faith or fatalism, after years of violent conflict, that the Congolese government and other belligerents are committed to protecting civilians. The lack of faith in actors’ intentions to protect them when violence is widespread is illustrated by the differences between North Kivu, where open conflict raged as the survey was conducted, and Ituri, where armed conflict has been successfully contained by MONUC peacekeepers and the relatively successful deployment of government forces in the region. In North Kivu, 44 percent believed God protected them, but only 26 percent believed the national army protected them. In comparison, in Ituri 16 percent of the respondents believed God protected them and 50 percent believed the national army protected them.

Although part of MONUC’s mandate is to ensure the protection of civilians, only about one in twenty respondents (4%) indicated MONUC provided them with protection. This may reflect that MONUC is either perceived as not having fulfilled its mandate of bringing security to the people, or that it is not sufficiently present in the field, especially in remote areas. This figure also correlates to the findings on priorities reflecting that only one-fifth of respondents in eastern DRC believe it should be a priority of the international community to provide security.

Table 3: Protection

Table 3 - Protection


[1] Pham PN, Vinck P, Stover E, Moss A, Wierda M, Bailey R, “When the War Ends. A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Peace, Justice, and Social Reconstruction in Northern Uganda,” Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley; Payson Center for International Development, Tulane University; International Center for Transitional Justice, New York (December 2007).

[2] Established by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1565 (1 October 2004) to facilitate the implementation of the Lusaka Accord signed in 1999, MONUC is authorized “to use all means deemed necessary, within the limits of its capacities and in the areas of deployment of its armed units, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence; and to contribute to the improvement of the security conditions.” It is one of the UN’s largest peacekeeping missions.