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Last Updated: Monday, 13 February 2006, 15:24 GMT
Appeal to help rebuild DR Congo
UN peacekeeper holding gun handed over by Congolese militiaman
Some 17,000 UN soldiers are in DR Congo to oversee the polls
A multi-million dollar aid appeal has been launched for the Democratic Republic of Congo ahead of its first democratic elections in 40 years.

The UN and European Union are calling $680m for the war-ravaged country.

UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland said the after-effects of a five-year conflict were responsible for the deaths of some 1,200 people every day.

A 2002 peace deal ended most fighting in DR Congo, but armed gangs continue to roam the east - killing and looting.

The UN has also appealed to Europe to help bolster the 17,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in the lead-up to parliamentary and presidential elections, due to take place between April and June.

QUICK GUIDE

Mr Egeland said the UN had struggled to get aid in the past because DR Congo was seen as a hopeless case.

"For the first time peace is breaking out. We are now able to reach people whom we before only watched dying," he said at the donor conference in Brussels, Belgium.

On the eve of the conference, the UK pledged some $100m.

Conflict is still continuing in the east, where bands of militia groups still terrorise civilians and use the rich minerals and timber of the region to finance their operations.

Several neighbouring countries were drawn into DR Congo's brutal conflict which led to some 3m deaths.




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