Aid groups protest DR Congo deaths

Coalition urges UN to withdraw from Democratic Republic of Congo as casualties soar.

    The aid groups said the humanitarian consequences of the military operation had been "disastrous" [AFP]

    "UN peacekeepers, who have a mandate to protect civilians, urgently need to work with government forces to make sure civilians get the protection they need, or discontinue their support."

    Hard choices

    Mohammed Adow, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Goma, reported that the peacekeepers had little public support even at the start of their mission.

    "It will be a huge disaster if the UN withdraws"

    Mohammed Adow,
    Al Jazeera correspondent in Goma

    "Last year when the town of Goma was surrounded by forces loyal to Laurent Nkunda, a renegade rebel leader, people were accusing Monuc of not doing enough to protect civilians," he said.

    "Now those accusations are coming up again and this time from aid agencies who are working in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

    "The UN forces here are caught between a rock and a hard place. Their mandate is to support Congolese forces, but these forces are made up of former rebel groups and they are ill trained, ill-equipped and they don't know much about human rights.

    "It will be a huge disaster if the UN withdraws. At the moment it is the UN that is keeping a semblance of law and order in eastern DR Congo, particularly in North Kivu and South Kivu areas."

    'Risk of backslide'

    Kevin Kennedy, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, or Monuc, said the mission will continue to support government forces against the Hutu rebels, known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

    "The agencies are not saying that Monuc is doing more harm than good. What they are doing is expressing concern over the humanitarian consequences of military actions that are necessary to dislodge [the FDLR]," he told Al Jazeera.

    "What they are calling for is more resources so Monuc can be able to do its job better.

    "The main conclusion of [the report] is that the elimination of the FDLR should be a top priority for the UN."

    The offensive, launched in January, began in North Kivu with the backing of Rwanda, and has subsequently reached into South Kivu with the backing of the UN Security Council.

    Adow added: "It's a vast area. This operation is very necessary to pacify this region. Rwanda has always maintained that as long as the Hutu militia men are hiding in eastern DRC, they will not rest."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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