Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Congo Now! Celebrates 50 years of independence; demands end of conflict

As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)  celebrates 50 years of independence today  (June 30th), the Congo Now! campaign is launching a series of events to celebrate the rich creativity of the Congolese people and raise awareness of the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in the east of Congo.

Congo Now! is backed by over 30 NGOs working on Congo, including Christian Aid, Oxfam and Global Witness, as well as UK-based Congolese groups, and the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region of Africa.  The campaign is calling on the new UK Government to revitalise its commitment to end the violence and the suffering of civilians in DRC.

The campaign combines cultural events with campaign activities - from a cocktail party featuring award-winning photojournalist Susan Schulman to Parliamentary roundtables; from a run in support of Congo’s women in Regent’s Park to talks by activist Sam Roddick.   There is also a night of entertainment at the Southbank Centre with Sandi Toksvig, Eddie Kadi and Ronan Bennett  to name a few, as well a postcard petition aimed at Prime Minister David Cameron calling for the UK Government to do more to end violence in the DRC.

Eric Joyce MP, Congo Now! spokesperson said:
“The 30th June sees Congo marking 50 years of independence, but for many in the eastern parts of Congo, there is little to celebrate.  Some two million people are unable to go home as a result of the conflict, with rape and violence daily threats.  It is tragic that this conflict has been forgotten for so long. We are calling on our politicians to mark this anniversary by doing more to help build a Congo free of violence.”
The DRC has been described as the ‘heart of Africa’ and is home to enormous natural wealth and resources. However for the last 15 years, the country has been ravaged by the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II:
•       with an estimated 5.4 million dead  – more than 2.7 million of them children
•        over 9,000 people were raped in Kivu provinces of eastern Congo last year.
•      over 115,000 people were displaced in the first three months of 2010

The UK government is currently the largest bilateral donor to the DRC, with a commitment of £130 million for 2010.  Congo Now! is calling on the UK to maintain its funding and strengthen its political efforts on the DRC. 
In particular it is calling on the UK to:
•      Stop natural resources fuelling the conflict – by adopting legislation to ensure that materials purchased by UK companies neither finance armed groups nor contribute to human rights abuses.
•      Protect civilians from violence – by calling on the Congolese government to reform their armed forces, which too often prey on rather than protect civilians; and urging the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Congo to protect people and ensure guarantees for civilian safety are put in place before any significant reduction of peacekeepers takes place.
•       Promote non-military and regional solutions to the conflict.
•      Address the devastating causes and consequences of conflict and sexual violence particularly for women and children  by providing effective humanitarian and development assistance across the country, including for projects focused on the care for survivors of sexual violence and former child soldiers.  

For more information and a list of events, click here.

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