DR Congo

Christian Aid in the DR Congo update Jan 2003

News and Press Release
Originally published
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite its vast natural resources. The present conflict broke out in mid-1998, when the Rwandan and Ugandan-backed Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD), launched a rebellion against the government.
The DRC was split - into eastern DRC, governed by the RCD, and western DRC controlled by the government of Joseph Kabila in January 2001. Hopes for re-unification of the country are now widespread due to the signing of a new peace deal in December 2002.

The war has led to widespread hunger, disease and human rights abuses. Over two million people have been displaced from their homes, with most fleeing to eastern DRC. Many children have been separated from their families and the number of children orphaned by AIDS is now estimated at 900,000. Rape is used as a weapon of war, increasing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, as does widespread displacement.

The country's infrastructure has been devastated, making it harder for people to get health care and education. The eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in Goma, in January 2002 made the situation even more critical.

Christian Aid has field offices in Kinshasa, western DRC, and in Bukavu in the east and works with 30 partner organisations. Programmes focus on: food security; rehabilitation of people displaced by the conflict; micro-credit schemes; HIV/AIDS; and peace projects. Partners are also responding to the volcano emergency in Goma.

Partner news

Warring parties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo signed an all-inclusive power-sharing deal in Pretoria, South Africa, on 17 December. Christian Aid partners are cautiously optimistic that this agreement will establish a government of national unity and end four years of war.

The leaders of three rival militias groups fighting along the Isiro-Beni axis of north eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) signed a ceasefire agreement on Monday 30 December which could, if respected, allow for the provision of humanitarian assistance. Two days later, rebel factions accused each other of violating the agreement, as further civilian displacement became apparent.

However, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), MONUC, believes that the clashes were due to lack of communication between military leaders and forces and stated that the fighting does not compromise the ceasefire agreement.

Christian Aid partners have played a key role in the involvement of civil society in the peace process leading up to Pretoria, known as the Inter-Congolese Dialogue. Christian Aid funded the attendance of partner Humanité Nouvelle (HuNo) at the Inter-Congolese Dialogue in Sun City, South Africa. The Pretoria agreement included representatives of the government, rebel movements, militias, opposition parties and civil society - the first all-inclusive deal. The ongoing involvement of civil society in the peace deal is crucial to its success.

A new report, Cursed by Riches: Who Benefits from Resource Exploitation in the Democratic Republic of Congo? from the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region and Genocide Prevention was released in November 2002. The report urges the UK government to investigate recent UN claims relating to UK company involvement in resource exploitation in the heart of the Congolese conflict.