Oxfam urges EU to act now to secure peace in Eastern Congo
Oxfam today urged European leaders to do more to bring lasting peace in Eastern Congo as EU Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels to review the EU’s military and police reform missions there. While Oxfam welcomes the EU’s efforts it warned ministers not to lose sight of the bigger picture: the extension of the mandate is vital, but by no means enough to help secure Congo’s fragile peace.
The Head of Oxfam’s Program in DRC, Juliette Prodhan, said:
“It is chilling that such abject human misery continues while the international community focuses attention elsewhere. This is the deadliest conflict the world has seen since World War II. At least 100,000 people have been forced to flee from their homes, many hundreds have been raped and more killed since the Goma Peace Accord was signed in January this year.
“During the 2006 elections, the European Union was a positive and empowering force for the Congo. The Congolese people are grasping for peace; the European Union must do more to help them reach it.”
Almost six months after a historic peace deal was signed, terror continues to stalk eastern Congo. 881 cases of rape were reported in North Kivu province in April alone; these are almost certainly the tip of the iceberg. Extortion by armed men is still common and child soldiers continue to be recruited.
The EU’s EUSEC and EUPOL missions are providing training and support to the Congolese army and police to help them better protect civilians, but in many areas the police and military are still just as much a threat to civilians as militias. Extortion by soldiers is so common that in some areas citizens prepare their “taxes” in advance to avoid humiliating searches and beatings.
Oxfam urges the European Union to:
- maintain diplomatic pressure on all armed groups and push to close Congo’s eastern borders to arms, illegal trade and new recruits to militias.
- back the appointment of an independent special advisor on human rights for eastern DRC.
- ensure that disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programs for militia groups are part of a long-term strategy of support to their return to civilian life.
Notes to Editors
1. The humanitarian situation in eastern Congo is one of the worst in the world. Over 5 million people have died since the war started in 1998, the majority from lack of access to food or health care. It is the deadliest war in the world today. Rape is endemic. According to the UN, 14,200 rape cases were registered between 2005 and 2007 in South Kivu province but only 287 were taken to court.2. A Congo peace deal was signed in 2003; this brought peace to much of the country, but the Kivu provinces continued to be embroiled in deadly conflict. In January 2008, a ceasefire agreement was signed between the government and 22 armed groups in the town of Goma following weeks of negotiations. Following the signing, the Congolese government set up the Amani (‘peace’) programme for eastern Congo, and appointed the widely-respected Abbe Malu Malu, a catholic priest, to spearhead the efforts towards peace.3. In 2006, despite the ongoing violence, Congo held historic elections that for the first time allowed people to vote freely for their leaders. Turnout was 70 percent. The European Union was instrumental in the successful running of these elections.