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Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Sunday, 8 June 2008 15:48 UK

DR Congo still a challenge for UN

By Mark Doyle
BBC World Affairs Correspondent, Kinshasa

Congo army soldiers participate in training exercises with a UN peace keeper in Bunia, Congo (file photo)
UN peacekeepers have been in DR Congo since 2000

Ambassadors from the UN Security Council have been visiting the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area which has been at the centre of Congolese and regional wars.

The Security Council is on a fact finding tour of Africa, the continent that takes up more of its time than any other, as it attempts to encourage peace and deploys peacekeeping troops.

The diplomats from New York are trying to get a taste of realities on the ground.

In eastern Congo they would see dramatic, beautiful landscapes.

Rolling hills and active volcanoes rise up from the shores of deep lakes which form the border between Congo and Rwanda.

map

But that is where the sightseeing stops and the politics begins.

Wars and proxy wars between Congo and Rwanda have over the past decade and a half been at the heart of the region's problems.

Enormous obstacles

Rwanda says that an ethnic Hutu rebel group, formed by the fugitive perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, still represents a threat to Rwanda. And Congo says Rwanda backs an ethnic Tutsi militia in eastern Congo.

An estimated 850,000 people have been made homeless by fighting between these groups - and an array of other militias and bandits, all of which prey on the local population.

A mother sits with her children in a camp for displaced people in Kinyandonyi, DR Congo
Thousands have been made homeless by fighting between ethnic groups

The Head of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Congo, Alan Doss, has convened numerous peace conferences to try to bring the various sides together and says the Rwandans will have to disarm and go home:

"Sooner or later, and I hope it's sooner, their day must come. They must return home," Mr Doss said.

The British diplomat is a veteran of peacekeeping forces in several African countries, including successful operations in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

"But equally well, the armed groups that are Congolese must also disarm and rejoin society to do their part," he added.

The obstacles to achieving this neat package are still enormous.

Congolese society has been wrecked by the war. The rebel groups and their ethnic suspicions of each other are just one side of this.

Mafia-style extortion rackets and widespread illegal looting of the region's rich mineral resources are rife.

Rape as a weapon of war is common in eastern Congo. Child soldiers, many of them orphans, have to be rehabilitated and given loving families.

All of this is a tall order indeed.

So far, although progress has been made towards peace in Congo as a whole, the largest UN peacekeeping force in the world has failed to fix the volatile East.


SEE ALSO
UN looks to DR Congo withdrawal
07 Jun 08 |  Africa
Peacekeepers 'abusing children'
27 May 08 |  Special Reports

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