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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 April, 2003, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
DR Congo: Africa's worst war
A Hema family
Many families have lost someone in the war

The four-and-a-half year conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been described as the worst since World War II.

An estimated 3.3 million people have died as a result of the war making it the "tragedy of modern times", according to a report issued by the International Rescue Committee aid agency.

The IRC said that only about 10% of the victims died violently, with the vast majority dying from starvation and disease due to the activities of the various armed groups operating in the country.

"This is a humanitarian catastrophe of horrid and shocking proportions... Yet, the crisis has received scant attention from international donors and the media," says IRC President George Rupp.

Africa's worst ever war began following the invasion of the north and east of the country by Rwanda and Uganda, to, as they said, prevent armed groups attacking them from Congo's territory.

"This is really hell. We are not secure, even here. Anything could happen
Emmanuel Ralonji in Bunia
This brought in armies, which have now left, from other countries to fight on the side of the Congolese Government.

However, ethnic clashes between the Hema and Lendu in the troubled north-eastern province of Ituri remain a potential stumbling block to peace.

Condemnation

The IRC's report was released as the United States and Britain condemned a massacre of some 1,000 villagers in Ituri province.

The reported massacre near Bunia last Thursday, came just a day after a peace agreement was signed in South Africa marking the end of 19 months of talks between the government, opposition parties, civil groups, militia and rebels.

DR CONGO'S WAR
Four years
Seven foreign armies
At least 3 million dead
Disease and abuses widespread

The US has called on Uganda to exercise its responsibility to protect civilians in Ituri where the killings occurred and to ensure that no violations of human rights or atrocities are committed.

On Monday, a Ugandan army spokesman denied any involvement in the massacre, saying his troops had been at least 15 km away.

Both US and UK have also called on all parties in the conflict to cease hostilities immediately and support a committee set up to end the fighting and make the area safe.

The committee resumed talks on Monday, despite the massacre.

On Monday, President Kabila was sworn-in as a transitional head of state for a period of two years before elections.

A new transitional government should be formed soon, including representatives of rebel groups who control eastern DR Congo but they were not present at Monday's ceremony in the capital, Kinshasa.

On Tuesday, Reuters news agency reported that people in Ituri were fearful of reprisal attacks.

"This is really hell. We are not secure, even here . Anything could happen," Emmanuel Ralonji said in Bunia, not far from the scene of the massacres.


SEE ALSO:
Hope survives DR Congo killing
07 Apr 03 |  Africa
DR Congo peace deal signed
02 Apr 03 |  Africa
Uganda-Rwanda tension mounts
17 Mar 03 |  Africa
Clash overshadows Congo deal
07 Mar 03 |  Africa


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