A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Agency reacts to renewal of the peacekeeping mandate
Each and every peacekeeper is still needed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, aid agency Oxfam said today (28 May) as the United Nations Security Council renewed the mandate of MONUC, the UN peacekeeping force in the country.
Although the mandate has been renewed, the make-up of the mission is set to change. Up to 2,000 troops may leave by 30 June 2010 and the mission is set to change from a peacekeeping force to a stabilization force on 1st July, when it will be re-named MONUSCO. The UN says that any further reductions of troops will be based on the security situation on the ground.
Marcel Stoessel, Head of Oxfam in Congo, said:
“Many parts of Congo are still extremely insecure and violence is a daily threat. Any reduction in peacekeepers could be bad news for ordinary Congolese, women and men.
“Congo needs each peacekeeper that it has, every pair of boots counts. While we’d like to see them be more proactive and effective in their daily operations, peacekeepers continue to have an important deterrent effect, particularly in eastern Congo. Some 162,000 people have fled from their homes this year alone, and in recent weeks UN reports have talked of more murder and mass rape.
“The Security Council needs to keep its word. It must ensure that any future cuts to peacekeeping numbers are determined by the security situation on the ground, the wishes of local Congolese communities and the ability of the Congolese army to protect its own civilians. According to communities we work with, elements of the Congolese army, as well as armed militia, continues to be responsible for many of the abuses civilians face. The government has taken some positive steps to address this, such as its zero tolerance policy on abuse, but there is still much work to be done to reform the Army.”
Oxfam also stressed that the UN Security Council needed to develop clear indicators for assessing progress in army reform. These must include appropriate vetting procedures to ensure human rights abusers do not become commanders, training on human rights and ensuring that any wrong-doer in the army can be and will be brought to court.
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Notes to editors
- Almost 2 million displaced people are still unable to go home as a result of ongoing conflict in Congo.
- According to the UN, 162,673 people have been displaced between January and April 2010 – in North Kivu (73,985), South Kivu (67,750) and Province Orientale (20,938)
- Reports of a massacre of 200 people by the LRA in the Kpanga area of Haut-Uélé in February is under investigation. Over 300 people were massacred in this location in just four days in December 2009.
- According to the UN, an estimated 160 women are raped per week in the Kivu provinces, mainly by armed men.