DR Congo aid conference aims for US$1.7bn - Taipei Times
Sat, Apr 14, 2018 - Page 6 News List

DR Congo aid conference aims for US$1.7bn

AFP, GENEVA, Switzerland

Donors were yesterday to meet in Geneva in a bid to stump up nearly US$1.7 billion for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), which is facing a crisis that experts have said could become a tragedy.

The conference comes amid mounting strife in the DR Congo, where a legacy of ethnic conflict, corruption and instability are combining with political tensions to spark fears of a bloodbath.

However — in a position that has deepened the country’s political divisions — the DR Congo is boycotting the talks.

In January, the International Organization for Migration described the humanitarian crisis as being at “breaking point” and identified needs of US$1.68 billion.

At least 13.1 million Congolese are in need of aid, including 7.7 million who are severely food insecure, the UN has estimated.

“I was shocked by the scale of the suffering. Five million people have fled for their lives really from violence,” Norwegian Refugee Council secretary-general Jan Egeland told reporters on Thursday.

“The [DR] Congo has been forgotten and neglected for too long. A widow with children in desperate need in the [DR] Congo needs as much help as if she was in Syria or in Iraq or anywhere else,” Egeland said.

The DR Congo has angrily contested the figures as an exaggeration and has said it will refuse to attend the conference, accusing the organizers of snubbing it.

Aid bodies and non-governmental organizations are propagating a “bad image of the Democratic Republic of the Congo throughout the world,” DR Congo Prime Minister Jose Makila said on March 23.

DR Congo Minister of Solidarity and Humanitarian Action Bernard Biango put the number of internally displaced people at 231,241 — just a fraction of the UN estimate of 4.5 million.

The government has promised US$100 million “to ease humanitarian distress” and earmarked US$10 million to help refugees or those internally displaced to return home.

Main opposition Union for Democracy and Social Progress leader Felix Tshisekedi has called on the conference to drum up as much aid as possible.

“The irresponsible attitude of the Kinshasa government reflects its indifference to the suffering of the Congolese people,” he said.

Dark clouds hang over the DR Congo’s political future.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila, in power since 2001, is under mounting pressure to quit.

He should have stepped down at the end of 2016, when his two-term limit expired, and is staying on under a constitutional clause that says the head of state can remain in office until his successor is elected.

Elections are scheduled for Dec. 23, but there is much uncertainty about whether they will take place, be fair or credible — and whether Kabila will run or not.

Dozens have died in anti-Kabila protests.

A country four times the size of France, the DR Congo has been chronically unstable since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Two wars took place from 1996 to 1997 and from 1998 to 2003, sucking in other African countries and causing millions of deaths in violence, disease and starvation.

In the east, the humanitarian crisis is rooted in years of violence between rival ethnic groups and militias.

More recently, conflict has escalated in the diamond-rich central region of Kasai, after soldiers killed a local traditional leader known as the Kamwina Nsapu.

Fighting between security forces and Kamwina Nsapu loyalists has since killed more than 3,000 people and displaced 1.4 million, the Roman Catholic Church has said.

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