/ 17 December 2009

EU urges DRC to end violence against civilians

The European Union on Wednesday urged the Democratic Republic of Congo’s rulers to end violence against civilians in the country, saying citizens’ rights were being ”trampled under foot”.

The call came in the wake of two recent reports which put the humanitarian crisis in eastern Congo under the spotlight.

”We are very worried for the future of this country,” said Swedish EU Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmstroem, whose country currently holds the bloc’s presidency.

Speaking at the European Parliament, she added that ”the situation is extremely dramatic in the Congo, where human rights are trampled under foot and there are many acts of sexual violence,” particularly in the east of the country.

”The Congolese authorities are responsible for making sure the policy of zero tolerance is not merely words, but is also translated into reality,” she said, in reference to President Joseph Kabila’s declarations against violence.

EU Development Commissioner Karel De Gucht called on Kabila to show ”political will” and bring those responsible for the violence to justice.

He also questioned whether aid provided by EU member states was being put to good use, given the continuing humanitarian crisis in parts of the country.

But Kinshasa dismissed the criticism as ”totally unjustifiable”.

”We need people to help us in our work to eradicate armed groups. But instead of helping us, they stick our face in the mud with totally unjustifiable criticism,” government spokesperson Lambert Mende told Agence France-Presse.

In a recent report for the United Nations Security Council, independent experts said attempts this year by Congolese, Rwandan and UN forces to disarm Rwandan Hutu rebels in eastern DRC failed and even worsened the humanitarian crisis.

The UN has its largest peacekeeping force — called Monuc — currently deployed in the country.

The report alleges that the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) recruits and arms fighters using profits from a corrupt international trade in minerals, and calls on the international community to step up efforts to cut off rebel funds.

The militia sprang up in eastern DRC in camps housing mainly ethnic Hutu refugees who fled Rwanda after their leaders launched the 1994 genocide, which left about 800 000 people dead.

Meanwhile, in a report released on Monday but rejected by Kinshasa, Human Rights Watch said a UN-backed military offensive in eastern Congo had led to more than a thousand civilians murdered this year by both Congolese troops and rebels. — AFP