Congo (DRC): Better resources for UN troops needed to avert humanitarian catastrophe, says Amnesty

A humanitarian catastrophe is imminent unless UN peacekeepers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo) have further reinforcements to effectively protect civilians, said Amnesty International today (30 Oct).

Amnesty International’s Deputy Africa Programme Director Tawanda Hondora said:

"We urge the Security Council to send immediate assistance to UN troops in the form of additional troop numbers, air support and other equipment. Only then will they be able to disrupt armed group attacks against civilian populations and enforce the UN arms embargo on the DRC, in line with their existing mandate."

The humanitarian and human rights crisis in eastern Congo has escalated dramatically in the past month since the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), under the command of renegade general Laurent Nkunda, launched a fresh offensive against government forces and threatened to overrun, Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu.

Despite a peace accord signed in January 2008, armed conflict has persisted in North Kivu, with fighting involving the regular Congolese army (FARDC) and the CNDP armed group. It has also included number of local mayi-mayi militia and the Rwandan Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) armed group.

Tawanda Hondora said:

"The international community must not stand by as the conflict degenerates to levels last seen between 1998 and 2002 in eastern DRC. This resulted in the death of three million people, which must not be allowed to happen again.

"World leaders should bring pressure to bear upon the warring parties, especially the CNDP, as well as governments that have influence over them, especially Rwanda, to prevent more civilian casualties."

More than one million people are estimated to have been displaced by this and previous rounds of fighting in the province. Whole communities have been uprooted, with Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, Children's rights and the elderly bearing the brunt of the conflict.

MONUC - The United Nations Organisation Mission of the Democratic Republic of Congo - is mandated to ensure the protection of civilians, including humanitarian personnel, under imminent threat of physical violence.

Amnesty International urges firm international action to press the governments of the DRC and Rwanda to abide by the commitments made in the Nairobi joint communiqué in November 2007.

Tawanda Hondora said:

"Deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians and peacekeepers carrying out their duty of protecting civilians is a war crime, punishable under international law. Civilians are bearing the brunt, and this cannot go on."

In addition, Amnesty International is insisting that all parties to the conflict must ensure that humanitarian aid agencies are not hindered in their work to provide humanitarian aid to displaced people, including those who are injured.

More than five million people have already died in the Congo conflict.

For more information about the Democratic Republic of Congo visit Amnesty International's DRC page

View latest press releases