Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Amnesty International Executive Director Larry Cox sent us a message earlier today that we thought our Roots of Humanity blog readers would want to see:

UN peacekeepers remain the last hope for hundrds of thousands of affected civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly women and children. The current force is thinly stretched and cannot effectively enforce its mandate of stopping attacks against civilians and protecting humanitarian operations.

"The United States is deeply concerned by the spiraling crisis in the Congo. (...) We urge the Congolese Government, rebel leadership and the neighboring governments to take all possible measures to prevent human rights abuses by troops under their command. We condemn all attacks on innocent civilians and urge all parties to the conflict to ensure that such attacks cease. The cycle of violence and impunity must be stopped."

Powerful statement. The U.S. State Department issued it more than 10 years ago, in August 1998. It did not prevent what became known as “Africa’s first world war” (1998-2003), which was centered in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and involved several neighboring countries.

Today, the humanitarian and human rights crisis in eastern DRC will again spiral out of control – if we do not act now.

At least 250,000 civilians have been displaced by the recent fighting, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from this and previous rounds of conflict to well over one million. Many IDPs remain out of the reach of aid workers, and some humanitarian operations have been suspended because of the fragile security situation. There is a high risk that the situation will escalate into a regional conflict.

Amnesty International works continuously on addressing the underlying causes of conflict, trying to end impunity for perpetrators of the most egregious human rights violations. But, our priority now is to protect civilians through reinforcing the capacity of the UN’s peacekeeping mission (Mission des Nationa Unies en République Démocratique du Congo, MONUC).

A few hours ago, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, briefed the Security Council and stressed the difficulties facing the UN peacekeepers. Now, members of the Security Council must act to strengthen the peacekeepers’ capacity.

We must act to guarantee that hope for civilians becomes a reality, not a sound bite. Ask Secretary Condoleezza Rice for her support to strengthen UN peacekeepers in the
Democratic Republic of Congo.

What are your thoughts about the crisis in the DRC?

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