Goma, Congo (Kinshasa), March 01, 2009 --(PR.com
)-- As U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon visits eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwandan troops prepare to leave the country, aid agency World Vision urges the U.N. peacekeeping force, MONUC, to recommit to protecting civilians above all else.
Debate over MONUC's role in the joint offensive against the predominantly Hutu rebel group, the FDLR, has increased since Rwanda and Congo sidelined the peacekeeping force from decision-making and information sharing. Recent discussions have suggested MONUC plans to play a direct role in combat operations.
"Any aggressive military action by the U.N. in collaboration with the Congolese army to forcibly disarm the FDLR will drastically compromise the peacekeepers’ primary responsibility to protect civilians," said World Vision's advocacy advisor in Goma, Carrie Vandewint.
"Eastern DRC has been plagued by brutal conflict for more than a decade. The spotlight should be put on a rigorous peace process, not more violence, which will only lead to more suffering," said Vandewint.
World Vision is also concerned that military action by the U.N. peacekeeping force against the FDLR rebel group, which characteristically integrates itself with the local population, will increase the vulnerability of aid agencies working to reach those most in need.
"We’re concerned our neutrality and impartiality could be compromised by being affiliated with a peacekeeping force that openly aligns itself with one side in the conflict," said Vandewint.
"There is no military solution to the conflict in the Congo. Instead, serious and concerted efforts must be made to tackle the root causes of the conflict through a re-invigoration of the Amani peace process," she said.
Even as World Vision calls for peace, any future offenses against rebels must be carefully coordinated with MONUC to prioritize the protection of civilians.
World Vision has been working with communities affected by conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for more than 15 years. The agency works with thousands of children and families displaced by conflict, tackling the impact of rape, separation of children, malnutrition, poor sanitation and food insecurity.
For photos, b-roll, or interviews with aid workers in eastern DRC, please contact Rachel Wolff at 253.394.2214. or Rwolff@worldvision.org, or Casey Calamusa at 206.310.5476 or CCalamus@worldvision.org.
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.