Jacqueline Kamala and her family fled their village in North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to repeated attacks by various armed groups.
“We were at the market and we heard gunshots. We didn’t know what was going on or who was shooting. Everyone ran away,” said Jacqueline.
Over 100 armed groups operate in this unstable region and dozens of militant groups are based in North Kivu to fight for ethnic rivalries and natural resources.
Few of these people dare to return home leading to bloating in the camps and pressure on local communities that welcome them.
Jacqueline is a member of a group of displaced people who defend the protection of human rights. They call themselves AHCOPDI, an acronym which in French means “Humanitarian Action for the Consolidation of Peace and Integrated Development”.
Seven out of its 20 members are displaced themselves.
“I am a monitor. I collect information about incidents in the community. Once the problems are solved, I am satisfied because the work I do helps to help the community’‘, Kamala said.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), over one million people have been displaced in DR Congo this year alone due to ongoing violence. North Kivu, the Agency added now hosts the highest number of internally displaced persons in this Central African nation.
The UNHCR is helping the group to lobby authorities and humanitarian organizations for increased or improved support.
‘‘Internally displaced persons are victims of several human rights violations, such as sexual violence and arbitrary arrests. UNHCR’s approach is to empower these people to defend themselves, but also to respond to protection incidents in their communities”, said UNHCR official, Gloria Ramazani.
Jacqueline often travels long distances, carrying her 11-month-old son on her back, to visit families and learn about their needs.
‘‘I want my life to improve and I want to keep sending my children to school. It will make me happy”, she added.
Jacqueline’s group may have more work to do as the country’s electoral body postpones a long-delayed elections to Sunday December 30.