DR Congo: UN envoy vows to help growing numbers of displaced in unstable northeast

William Lacy Swing

14 May 2007 – Visiting the troubled northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the senior United Nations envoy to the country called on the region’s swelling population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to continue to seek international support and promised to pressure Congolese authorities to act more quickly to alleviate their plight.

William Lacy Swing, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the DRC, spent the weekend touring IDP camps in Rutshuru in North Kivu province, where at least 140,000 Congolese have become displaced since the start of the year because of fresh outbreaks of violence and insecurity. He also held working meetings with UN officials posted in the region as well as local Congolese authorities.

The northeast has long been the most unstable region in the vast DRC, and about 85 per cent of the more than 17,000 peacekeepers and military observers in the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) are deployed in the provinces in that part of the country.

Speaking in Rutshuru, Mr. Swing vowed to the recently displaced Congolese that he would press authorities in the national capital, Kinshasa, to work swiftly to improve conditions and stabilize the region so that it becomes more secure for locals.

Mr. Swing also said the MONUC Force Commander and local representatives of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) would be assessing conditions across the northeast to determine how to meet the immediate needs of the region’s growing number of IDPs.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today began her 12-day tour of Africa’s Great Lakes region with a series of talks with senior DRC officials in Kinshasa.

Ms. Arbour met President Joseph Kabila, Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga and Defence Minister Chikez Diemu, as well as with senators and deputies in the DRC National Assembly and members of Congolese human rights groups.

Tomorrow the High Commissioner is scheduled to hold further talks with DRC Government ministers before travelling to Kisangani, a major city in the northeast, on Thursday. The widespread impunity in the DRC, sexual violence directed at women and girls and the use of child soldiers are expected to top the agenda during her talks.

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