Time running out for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo warn activists

Demonstrators protest in European capitals ahead of key UN Security Council meeting

Wednesday 26 November 2008. Activists will demonstrate today in London and Paris, ahead of a key meeting of the UN Security Council, to call on Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy and other European leaders to provide rapid protection for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Activists warn that time is running out for DRC and that European leaders must do more to prevent further killings. The groups, including Amnesty International, Oxfam and Christian Aid believe that this is a critical test of the UN’s ability to provide effective protection for civilians in times of crisis.

“Some 5.4 million people have already died in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1998 (1). How many more lives must be wasted before the world decides to act? There has been welcome high-octane diplomacy from the UK government but time is ticking and the government must act now to protect those at risk,” said Phil Bloomer, Campaign and Policy Director, Oxfam.

The UN Security Council has authorised the reinforcement of peacekeepers and is meeting today to agree on steps to achieve this. But experts fear that this process will take months and could be hampered by severe delays.

The coalition argues that the coming weeks will be critical to bring stability and security to eastern DRC, to allow the ceasefire to take root and to provide breathing space for the political process to succeed. The groups argue that the UK government - as a member of the UN Security Council, a key member state of the EU and a leading advocate of the principle of the responsibility to protect – has a particular responsibility to ensure immediate action is taken.

“The UK government has said that the international community has a responsibility to help the people of DRC. Providing protection means getting an effective peacekeeping force on the ground NOW. This means in days or weeks. It cannot mean months. We are calling on Gordon Brown to make a public promise that the UK government will not tolerate any delay,” said Shuna Keen of Christian Aid.

Demonstrators will stand beside a giant clock - to symbolise how time is ticking for DRC - and hold up watches and clocks in front of Number 10 to urge the Prime Minister to take immediate and decisive action.

“It’s clear from ongoing reports that killings, rape and the recruitment of child soldiers are still occurring in the region, and not enough support or protection is being given to the people of eastern DRC. The UK government has to do more. It can offer specialist resources and equipment as well as urge partner nations to bolster the peacekeeping force. The clock is ticking. A durable political solution is needed for DRC but this can only happen if security and stability are immediately restored,” said Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK.

The demonstrations follow a series of advertisements in the national press and a letter to the Prime Minister by prominent by UK groups.

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