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Last Updated: Friday, 25 July, 2003, 22:17 GMT 23:17 UK
International forces 'fail DR Congo'
French troops near Bunia
MSF says French troops have failed to protect civilians
UN-mandated peacekeeping troops are failing to protect the civilian population in the Democratic Republic of Congo's troubled north-eastern Ituri region, the humanitarian agency Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) has said.

MSF has also protested against continued insecurity in and around the town of Bunia, a town in Ituri, saying that the current levels of protection and assistance to the people are far from enough.

In a report published on Friday, MSF criticised the French-led European forces in the area which "arrived too late for tens of thousands of people".

Do not sacrifice them [civilians] to other political objectives, as was the tragic case in the Srebrenica 'safe haven'"
MSF report

Meanwhile, the DR Congo transitional government has been holding its first meeting in Kinshasa, attended by President Joseph Kabila and his four vice presidents.

The first challenging task of the new government, comprising 35 ministers and 25 deputy ministers will be to find a way to provide housing and pay daily allowances to the some 500 deputies and 120 senators.

Killings

But MSF says that despite the peace process in Congo, which led to a new power-sharing government last week, killings were continuing in other parts of the country's north-eastern region.

"Violence and insecurity continue to shape the reality for people in town.

"Only some areas of the city are secure, and throughout the night there are killings, rapes, reprisals, and looting despite the presence of [peacekeepers from] Monuc and the IEMF," the report said.

In April, some 600 reserve troops from the UN Mission in the DRC (Monuc) were deployed to the Ituri region, where more than 50,000 people have been killed and some 500,000 displaced since 1999.

'Inadequate assistance'

Following vicious inter-ethnic clashes in the region that left hundreds dead in May alone, a UN-mandated European Union force was deployed last month to reinforce the overwhelmed Monuc contingent and secure Bunia.

The MSF report entitled "Ituri: Broken Promises? A Pretence of Protection and Inadequate Assistance", has warned that despite the deployment of the peacekeeping troops in Bunia, "war is always close by".

In the past weeks, more than 12,000 people have gone back to Bunia after fleeing terror in the town in mid-May, but few are willing to return to their homes because they fear for their lives.

It says that the situation is even more dire outside town, where there is no protection for the nearly 150,000 people who fled Bunia to seek refuge in the surrounding forests.

Thousands are unwilling to return to their homes in fear for their lives

The report reveals that 50% of the patients admitted to hospital are under five and that since the end of May, 20% of patients admitted to the MSF hospital in Bunia were victims of war injuries.

However, it is difficult to know the extent of violence outside of Bunia because access to these areas has been impossible for months.

Noting the failure of UN peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and Rwanda, MSF has warned the Security Council to "keep its promises to protect civilians - not to sacrifice them to other political objectives, as was the tragic case in the Srebrenica 'safe haven'."

The report has been released on the eve of the UN Security Council's scheduled review of Monuc's mandate, which expires on 30 July.

Under UN Security Council Resolution 1484, the EU force is due to remain in Bunia until September 1, when they will hand over command to Monuc troops.




SEE ALSO:
French troops kill Congo rebels
11 Jul 03  |  Africa
DR Congo cabinet fails to meet
19 Jul 03  |  Africa
Rebels raise DR Congo flag
23 Jul 03  |  Africa


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