Caritas Internationalis calls for aid in Congo chaos

Caritas Internationalis has launched a new emergency aid appeal for people displaced by the world's largest ongoing conflict between militias and government forces in the Ituri district of Congo.

Caritas reports that since 1999, the Ituri district, along the country's northeastern border with Uganda, has been subject to continuous outbreaks of violence, among rival ethnic militia groups whose allegiances are always changing, and between these groups and the government's armed forces.

Most recently, various militias have remoulded themselves into the Revolutionary Movement of the Congo, whose main objective seems to be to derail any attempt to bring the area back under state control.

The country's first democratic elections are scheduled for 30 July.

"There are people in the Congo who prefer to keep the country in chaos for their own benefit, but they must not be allowed to destroy what the Congolese people have been working for," said Pierre Cibambo, desk officer for the Africa region at Caritas Internationalis.

Caritas says that despite the signing of a peace agreement in 2002, the violence in the east has continued largely unabated, as militias compete for the region's vast mineral wealth.

Caritas Congo and specifically Caritas of the Bunia diocese report that during the recent clashes that have been taking place since January, both militias and government forces have been living off the civilian population to survive, taking their food, burning down villages and committing acts of sexual violence and rape.

The local Caritas in Bunia also says that water supplies are coming under tremendous strain, and there has been increasing sickness, with few medicines available to treat the ill.

Caritas Développement Bunia will manage a project targeting more than 100,000 of the most isolated and vulnerable victims. It will provide them with clothing, blankets, and tarpaulins to be used in building shelter, soap, kitchen sets and water containers. The program is meant to hold them over for a period of three months.

Caritas Internationalis aims to raise AU$675,000 (US$500,000) from this appeal.

Clashes in DR Congo Leave Civilians Homeless, Hungry (Caritas Internationalis, 21/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Democratic Republic of Congo (Wikipedia)

Congo killings raise fears of genocide (CathNews 14/12/03)

Clashes in DR Congo Leave Civilians Homeless, Hungry (Reuters 21/6/06)

23 Jun 2006