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Congo Bishops Call for an End to Africa’s Deadliest Conflict

December 30th, 2008

Catholic Bishops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) toured the the United States and Canada in December with an urgent appeal on behalf of the millions of Congolese people caught in a deadly war between Laurent Nkunda’s militia and DRC government forces. The Bishops are asking the U.S. Government to support an initiative to send more U.N Peacekeepers into Congo because the current 17,000 U.N forces are poorly trained and have been implicated in atrocities. The troops reportedly failed to stop the recent mass killings at Kiwanja in the Eastern part of the Congo.

Bishop Ambongo Besungu, O.F.M President of the JPIC Commission, Bishop Muteba Magalu, President of Social Communications and Sister Marie Alima, Executive Secretary of the National JPIC Commission spoke to members of the Catholic Task Force on Africa at Trinity University in Washington DC on December 8. The delegation members are requesting more United Nations peacekeepers to stop the displacement of a quarter million people, the recruitment of child soldiers, and the rape and massacres afflicting the people. Warring militias backed by Rwanda and Congo government forces have been wreaking havoc, particularly in the eastern part of the DRC.

The Catholic Church in Congo runs some 40% of the health and 60% of the educational institutions in the country. The church and its institutions have been greatly affected by war, which has lead to a serious humanitarian crisis. The appeal by Catholic leaders for a peace force is supported by the Congolese people and is known by the government in Kinshasa, as well as leading NGOs operating there. The Bishops are also calling for an international Conference about the Congo’s natural resources in order to develop a framework to ensure that benefits are shared with the people of the country.

A strong U.N peacekeeping force is needed to stop the conflict and buy time to start the peace and reconciliation process. It would create space to punish in the courts those who are responsible for committing the atrocities. A strong peacekeeping force would also allow humanitarian aid to reach the millions of people who are now starving and without medical care.

The United States under the Bush Administration has achieved little in the peace process in the DRC. Several people in Congo view the U.S. as bearing responsibility in the conflict because of its support for the Rwanda government which back Nkunda’s rebel militia. Ending the war in Congo will be one the major African challenges for the next Obama administration.

For more detailed information on Congo conflict, see the reports from the Enough Project

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