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People In Eastern Congo Forced To Fund The War That Destroys Their Lives, Says Oxfam

In northern Masisi in North Kivu, the small market town of Kashuga was attacked 12 times between April and July 2012 by Congolese army troops, as well as the APCLS (Alliance des Patriotes pour un Congo Libre et Souverain) and FDLR (Forces Democratique de Liberation du Rwanda) rebel groups. They were fighting over control of illegal tax revenues imposed on local people selling or buying goods at the weekly market.

Elsewhere in Masisi farmers said they had to pay 1,000 Congolese Francs (approximately $1 or the equivalent to 2–3kgs of beans) to the local rebel group, Mayi-Mayi Nyatura, for each person wanting to access their fields to farm their crops.

In Irumu, Ituri, in Province Orientale, women market sellers said they had to give wood and straw to the militia when arriving at the market, and that every household had to give 500 Congolese Francs ($0.5) to the militia each month. Oxfam was told that taxes are seen as a way of reducing the risk of abuse by armed groups and have become known as protection taxes labelled lala salama – Swahili for "sleep peacefully" – or remger ubuzima for "protect life".

The assessment found that communities face pervasive abuse by both armed rebel groups and government forces but around two thirds of people said that, despite the abuse and the environment of impunity, they felt more secure living under FARDC control.

In the absence of an effective state authority, many people said they feel abandoned by central government and in some areas have taken justice into their own hands by forming their own armed force – adding to the plethora of armed groups in the east.

"In the face of abuse and exploitation on this scale there is no room for apathy. This is a humanitarian catastrophe on a massive scale and the world cannot continue to turn its back on this tragedy. Communities in eastern Congo are living on the very edge of survival with the little they have being taken to fund the war. Not only does the conflict mean that people are under constant threat of violence, but it is taking the clothes off their backs and the harvest from their fields," said Martel.

"It is reprehensible that another year goes by with people telling us they go to bed afraid of killing, lootings and abductions and that women are too afraid to go to their fields for fear of being raped. The Congolese Government, the United Nations, the international community must listen and respond to the people paying the ultimate price for the conflict."

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