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US 'must' restore DRC security

01 December 2010, 11:27

Washington - The US must spearhead an international effort to restore security in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) or risk the region becoming "another failure of humanity", a report released Tuesday says.

"In eastern Congo, conflict and insecurity continue while the guns have fallen silent in other parts" of DRC, which was riven by devastating back-to-back wars that began in the 1990s and ended early this century, the report by the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI) says.

"The international community - and the US in particular - must do more to address the challenges in eastern Congo if another failure of humanity is to be averted in central Africa," says the report by the ECI, an advocacy group founded by US actor and director Ben Affleck.

Affleck was due later on Tuesday to join US Senator John Kerry; State Department Africa expert Johnnie Carson; Senator-elect John Boozman, who served on the House of Representatives' subcommittee on Africa; and former US aid agency director for DRC, Tony Gambino, to discuss the ECI report.

The report hails the "notable milestones" achieved in DRC since its leaders signed a peace agreement in 2002, ending years of war that claimed some 3.5 million lives.

Civilians attacked

Rebel groups that drove the wars have been demobilised and their members reintegrated into civilian life, economic growth has resumed in the mineral-rich country with huge potential to become an agricultural powerhouse; and DRC has a functioning, democratically elected government.

But progress could easily be undone by the continuing violence and conflict in eastern DRC, the report says.

The UN refugee agency said in 2009 that the situation in eastern DRC was deteriorating as rebel groups from Rwanda and Uganda attacked civilians and targeted humanitarian relief convoys and non-governmental organisations working in the region.

Rape is widespread in eastern DRC, and in September, a US medical charity said suspected members of a Hutu rebel group that played a key role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, raped at least 242 women within a few days in Nord-Kivu province.

According to the ECI, some two million people in eastern Congo are still internally displaced and 200 000 are refugees in neighbouring countries, eight years after the peace agreement was signed.



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