Oxfam urges AU leaders to make peace in eastern DRC a priority

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) – African heads of state and government, for the 20th ordinary summit of the African Union (AU), must take bold steps towards peace in eastern DR Congo, the international humanitarian agency, Oxfam, said Friday.

Calling on the AU to urgently step up its response to “the enormous human suffering in the region”, the agency said that since the M23 armed group withdrew from Goma after capturing the city in November last year, global attention on the conflict has decreased.

According to Oxfam, people were still fleeing attacks on their villages and daily looting and extortion by more than 25 armed groups.

In North Kivu alone, nearly one million people have been displaced with access to just the very basic services and little protection from violence.

“Years of international policies in eastern DR Congo have failed to end people’s suffering, and now is the time for the AU to step up,” said Desire Assogbavi, head of Oxfam’s office at the AU.

“The next few days offer a crucial opportunity for our continent’s leaders to put an end to this unacceptable crisis. The lives of hundreds of thousands of African citizens are at stake here,” he added.

A recent Oxfam assessment around the town of Masisi in North Kivu found tens of thousands of people living in terror.

Water points and infrastructure have been destroyed and cholera and other diseases were spreading fast as aid agencies have been unable to properly respond to the situation due to ongoing fighting.

There are now more than 60 camps in the area as people flee attacks by armed groups and Oxfam is scaling up its work in Rubaya, where around 40,000 people are sheltering in a camp with no clean water.

Oxfam said 150,000 displaced people were still living in camps around the city of Goma.

In addition, Oxfam urged the AU to step up its support and push the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) – made up of 12 African nations – to reach a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

“Despite the suffering, there is now a real opportunity for peace and stability and the AU must seize this chance. Our leaders must send a message of hope and peace to the hundreds of thousands of displaced people all across eastern DR Congo,”  said Assogbavi.

“The lessons of the past must be learnt and the AU must make sure that any agreements are more than just words on paper, and tackle the root causes of a conflict that has blighted Africa for the past 20 years.”

In Oxfam’s view, "any agreement must include the voices and opinions of the Congolese people, who have most at stake in resolving the crisis, and address underlying issues that fuel the conflict - such as lack of governance, the urgent need to reform the Congolese army which fails to protect its citizens, and the need for constructive regional relations.

“Potentially positive steps in the 2006 Pact on Security, Stability and Development have not been implemented and must be reinvigorated,” Oxfam said.

DRC is the biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa and the impact of the crisis has consequences for the stability of the rest of the continent, the humanitarian agency pointed out.

More than 50,000 Congolese refugees are still sheltering in camps in Uganda and Rwanda and in the past few weeks thousands more have crossed the border.
-0- PANA AR/VAO 25Jan2013

25 january 2013 14:39:25




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