At a conference of religious leaders in the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a United Nations humanitarian official has said dialogue among parties is a cornerstone for the protection of civilians caught in the conflict.
Andrew Wyllie, the acting head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Central African country, repeated his invitation "to those of you who are playing a central role in your communities, who have direct and privileged links with all their members and who have their confidence" to respect humanitarian principles and work towards improving the living conditions of all Congolese.
He spoke at the Conference of Church Leaders, Religious Denominations and Organizations for Peace, Security and Development in the Countries of the Great Lakes Region, which was held form 4 to 6 June in Bukavu, in South Kivu province.
The meeting was organized so participants could discuss the repatriation of armed groups and refugees, and also the sexual violence and other crimes perpetrated against the civilians of the African Great Lakes region.
Regarding the situation in North and South Kivu provinces in the DRC's volatile east, Mr. Wyllie stressed that humanitarian aid must be provided based on the principles of humanity, neutrality, independence, impartiality and in consideration of need. He added that all sides have a responsibility to protect civilians caught in the crossfire.
The worsening security situation caused by armed groups and continuing military operations is hampering the provision of aid to vulnerable populations, particularly those forced to flee their homes, he said.
Welcoming the work of churches in helping those in need, Mr. Wyllie voiced hope that they would partner with humanitarian agencies to advocate with the disagreeing parties.
The Conference was attended by representatives from churches and church associations from Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and the DRC, as well as the Secretary-General's Special Representative for the DRC, Ross Mountain, and the Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the DRC, Eusebe Hounsokou.