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Conflict in the Congo’s Great Lakes Region

30/10/2008: Dem. Rep. of the Congo

In the course of the past four weeks, at least 100,000 people have had to leave their homes in the Province of North Kivi in the Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC). The cause of the flight has been the increase in hostilities between the army troops of the RDC and rebel forces loyal to General Laurent Nkunda. The hostilities are in clear violation of the January 2008 ceasefire signed in Goma (capital of North Kivu) by the Congo government, the CNDP (People’s National Security Congress) and twenty-one other armed groups who operate in the eastern Congo.

On September 25 last month, eighty-three human rights agencies and groups who work in the region called for the protection of civilians and for an increase in assistance to the most vulnerable members of the population in question: “The situation of civilians is desperate and can only get worse as the armed struggle continues. All the parties to the Goma ceasefire must carry out their obligations, including the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian laws and human rights.”

The Congo Peace Network is made up of various religious organizations that work in Kivu. The Network has issued an appeal seeking major assistance from the international community. The Network has made it clear that fighting is continuing despite the presence of troops serv-ing under MONUC (United Nations in the Congo) and under the Amani Program which was set up in 2006.

More recently, events have become more complicated because of accusations made against the MONUC troops. The accusations touch upon the abuse of minors and the exchange of weapons for minerals. Both the credibility of the MONAC troops and their role as a mediating presence have been gravely compromised.

The CNDP is calling for a general uprising against the government which it accuses of incompetence and corruption. Having experienced in the past conditions of great peril, the people are even more frightened this time. If the war becomes widespread in the near future, the only possible outcome is a catastrophic one.

The Marist Brothers have two communities in the region. One is in Bobandana, and the other in Goma. The communities conduct educational establishments in both cities and in Nyangezi as well. All our Brothers are bearing up well at present. As a result of the conflict, however, the Brothers of the Bobandana community have felt it necessary to move to Goma.

We invite all the Marist family to join in spirit with this long-suffering part of Congo, and to pray for peace and justice, having a special remembrance of the children and young people who are so often, in all conflicts, innocent victims.

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