Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 17, 2008
Congo atrocities prompt appeal for peace
Pope condemns systematic violence and deaths of innocent people
By Catholic News Service
“A real humanitarian drama is unfolding before our eyes and can leave no one indifferent.”
- Congolese bishops
During a Nov. 7 press conference, the Canadian Catholic aid agency Development and Peace joined several other aid agencies in urging Canada to intervene in the conflict.
“Massive displacements, arbitrary assassinations, pillage, torture, kidnapping and an undetermined number of rapes have happened in Congo,” said Gaelle Breton-Le Goff of the Montreal-based Coalition for Women’s Human Rights in Conflict Situations.
Eastern Congo’s proximity to Rwanda and the region’s mineral wealth have contributed to the ongoing violence in the region. The 1994 ethnic genocide of Tutsis by Hutus in Rwanda spilled over into Congo, and since then Rwandan rebels and Tutsi militants have been fighting the Congolese army, despite a cease-fire signed in January.
The hostilities have caused thousands of deaths and displaced more than 200,000 civilians who currently are fleeing south from the violence in the area north of Goma.
Eleonore Fournier-Tombs, communications officer for Development and Peace in Canada, said the agency plans to engage in long-term development in the region to “create alternatives for young soldiers and rebuild the livelihoods of the displaced.” Meanwhile, the Congolese bishops’ conference urged the international community to pressure Congolese armed groups to “respect the commitments” they have made and the Congolese government to re-establish peace in the country.
“A real humanitarian drama is unfolding before our eyes and can leave no one indifferent,” said the bishops.
The bishops noted that, in addition to the displacement of thousands of civilians, children have been kidnapped and forced to enroll in Laurent Nkunda’s rebel movement of Congolese Tutsis known as the Banyamulenge.
Nkunda, who deserted the Congolese army in 2003 and formed his own rebel group, claims he is defending the Banyamulenge against further attacks by Rwandan Hutus.
The Rwandan Hutus participated in the Rwandan genocide.
But the Congolese bishops said they fear “that these recurring wars in the east and northeast are being used as a screen to cover up the pillage of natural resources, because the fighting is carrying on in places where natural resources are exploited and where certain people would like to continue illegal exploitation.”
The United Nations and a broad range of international human rights groups have linked the war in Congo to an illegal trade in minerals, including gold, coltan and tantalite, the mineral that is used to make cell phones and laptop computers.
Various armed groups vie for control of the mines, and the continued unregulated mining activities fuel the war between the different armed groups, including the official Congolese army.
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