A joint UN mission is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on what’s described as an unprecedented visit to the Great Lakes Region. It’s there to discuss ways the international community can best help the people of the DRC to make a transition to peace and democracy. The mission is made up of the UN refugee agency, UNICEF and the World Food Program. Leading it is the UNHCR’s high commissioner, Antonio Guterres.
Kitty McKinsey, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, is traveling with the mission. Voice of America reporter Cole Mallard reached her on the road to get an assessment of the mission so far.
McKinsey said, “The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is really, really dire. More people have died here…than [in] any other conflict since the Second World War. More than three million people are displaced from their homes. One thousand-two hundred people needlessly die every day of things that could be prevented, but are related to the war.”
She says the mission wants to “underline the need for the international community to help this country because it’s on the brink of changes.” McKinsey calls the situation “a tipping point …where an injection of aid and interest from the West could really make a difference.” She says the mission, in a visit with DRC president Joseph Kabila, stressed the willingness of the international community to support the DRC, but she says a major concern on the part of the high commissioner is for the president to “do everything in his power to protect his own citizens.”
McKinsey says members of the armed forces prey on citizens, raping and stealing from them, because the army personnel don’t regularly get food or pay. She says the high commissioner emphasizes, “It is the obligation of the armed forces of this country to protect the citizens and not be a threat to the citizens.”