The Sound of Silence

A coalition of human rights groups are calling for the re-evaluation of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo as it is costing the lives of thousands of civilians.

The UN forces (MONUC) have joined with Conglolese government forces in operations seeking to disarm Hutu rebels in the region of north Kivu that borders Rwanda. Since January (2009), over an thousand rebels have been successfully disarmed.

However, this has come at a cost. The coalition estimates that for every rebel disarmed during the conflict:

–          One civilian has been killed

–          Seven women and girls have been raped

–          Six houses have been burned and destroyed

–          900,000 people have been forced to flee their homes

The rebels are deliberately targeting civilians in retaliation to the government’s military operations, aggravating the violence and forcing thousands to flee their homes. However, the government forces are not totally innocent either, responsible for rapes, looting and arbitrary arrests. Moreover, the government have hastily drawn in commanders with a history of human rights abuses in order to continue the military manoeuvres.

The coalition is calling upon the UN to take action and address the situation in the DRC in a meeting (the Great Lakes Contact Group) in Washington later this week. There needs to be greater protection for civilians and UN peacekeepers in the area must work with government forces to secure their safety. Yet, additional UN forces requested in 2008 are only just arriving in the area, and vital resources such as helicopters and intelligence support are still conspicuously absent.

The UN has already heavily invested in this conflict, but urgent action needs to be taken to ensure the protection of civilians caught up in the struggle.

“With an investment this big, the UN has clout and should not remain silent when abuses occur” – Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.

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Published in: on October 15, 2009 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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