Congo + 1 more

Crisis in Congo

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BACKGROUND

Some 5.4 million people have died in the bloody conflict that has raged in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 1998. According to a recent study confucted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), more than 45,000 people are killed each month.

After years of economic and political decline, the war of 1998-2002 led to extreme violence, massive population displacement, widespread rape, and the collapse of public health services.

Despite the signing of a formal peace agreement in December 2002, conflict and eruptions of violence have persisted in eastern provinces-resulting in widespread sexual violence and loss of life.

THE SITUATION

A new spate of violence recently erupted in a northwestern province of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), causing tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes and cross the border into neighboring Republic of Congo.

According to Congolese government estimates, 84,000 refugees have fled to Republic of Congo since early November when inter-ethnic violence between Enyele and Munzaya tribes erupted over farming and fishing rights.

UNCHR (United Nations Human Rights Commission) reports that as many as 145,000 DRC residents have fled violence in western Equateur province, scattering along the banks of the Oubangui River.

The displaced are at high risk of respiratory infection, diarrhea and malaria due to overcrowding and limited access to clean water.

Relief workers are struggling to provide humanitarian aid and services as the new settlements along the riverbank present considerable logistical obstacles.

UN PEACEKEEPING MISSION IN QUESTION

United Nations peacekeepers have recently withdrawn support for DRC military units recently implicated in civilian deaths and human rights abuses.

The suspension of support follows reports that 1,400 civilians were killed by Congolese and Rwandan troops and by rebels in eastern DRC as a result of military operations launched in cooperation with the UN Mission.

A report led by UN-commissioned experts has charged that UN peacekeeping forces are failing their mission to quell widespread violence. Human Rights Watch has even suggested that the UN is at risk of being complicit in atrocities perpetrated against civilians.

In response to such criticism, the UN has decided to end its joint military operation aimed against rebel groups at the end of this year.

Alan Doss, head of the UN Peacekeeping MIssion in Congo, recently told the Security Council that under a new mandate, Congolese troops backed by the UN force "will now concentrate on holding ground recovered from the FDLR and preventing attacks on civilians in areas of vulnerability".