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Monday, 6 August, 2001, 02:15 GMT 03:15 UK
UK minister to push Congo peace
Congolese bury their dead in a crowded cemetery in Kinshasa, Congo
Two million are estimated to have died as an indirect result of the conflict
By Mark Dummett in Kinshasa

Clare Short, the British Secretary of State for International Development, starts a tour of the Great Lakes region of Africa on Monday.

Ms Short plans to urge progress on the peace process currently underway in the Democratic Republic of Congo and to see for herself the disastrous effect of the war.

Clare Short, the British Secretary of State for International Development
Ms Short will meet the heads of state of the three countries involved
One American aid agency has said at least two million people have died as an indirect result of the conflict in the eastern part of the country alone.

The area is held by rebels who, led by Uganda and Rwanda, launched the war three years ago.

Ms Short will meet the heads of state of the three countries involved - Congolese President Joseph Kabila, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni and President Paul Kigame of Rwanda.

Ceasefire holding

Since Mr Kabila assumed power in Kinshasa in January, Congo's peace process has made rapid strides forward.

A ceasefire is holding along its frontline and UN peacekeepers have been deployed throughout the vast country.

Joseph Kabila
Joseph Kabila has restored hope to the peace process
But fighting within the rebel half, among various militia groups, continues and is making life a misery for the millions of people living there.

Britain's three largest operational aid agencies working in Congo, Oxfam, Christian Aid and Save the Children, are due to release a report on Monday entitled 'No End in Sight'.

They argue that in spite of progress being made on the political front, the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the east of Congo is getting worse.

They hope that by coming to see for herself the scale of the disaster, Ms Short will increase British aid funding to the region.

Controversy

But her visit to Kinshasa is not without controversy.

A recent UN report details how Ugandan, Rwandan and rebel Congolese businessmen and soldiers are exploiting the insecurity to make their fortunes from Congo's rich mineral resources.

Malnourished seven-year-old child in Congo
Congolese have suffered in their millions
It goes on to criticise the countries that give generous aid packages to Rwanda and Uganda, arguing that it allows them to fund their armies' occupation and plundering of Congo.

Britain is one of Rwanda and Uganda's largest bilateral aid donors and Ms Short has accused the report of being both inaccurate and biased.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Julian Bedford
"Millions have been forced from their homes"
Peter Hawkins, Save the Children
"Mortality rates are probably about the highest in the world at the moment"
See also:

06 Aug 01 | Africa
Kinshasa's grave concerns
02 Aug 01 | Africa
Fighting mars Congo anniversary
25 Jul 01 | Africa
Interahamwe: A spent force?
04 Jul 01 | Africa
Kabila in peace talks
30 Jun 01 | Africa
Belgium resumes DR Congo aid
26 Jan 01 | Africa
Kabila promises peace efforts
21 Jun 01 | Africa
In pictures: Historic Congo trip
01 Aug 01 | Africa
Historic aid boat leaves Kinshasa
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