In the wake of recent intense fighting in North Kivu province between government forces and fighters loyal to rebel General Laurent Nkunda, Amnesty International has accused the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the international community of having failed the people of the eastern DRC. Tendai Maposa has more for VOA from London.
London-based Amnesty International says the worsening conflict in the North Kivu region has forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes, and it holds the international community and the DRC government responsible for the plight of the country's people.
Amnesty says it has been receiving reports of rapes and killings of civilians and the recruitment of child soldiers. The group fears there is a danger the violence could develop into a renewal of mass ethnic killings and other abuses.
Erwin van der Borght, director of Amnesty International's Africa Program, said people in the region are still in dire straits despite peace agreements, landmark national elections, and the continued deployment of more than 17,000 U.N. peacekeepers.
The report says part of the blame can be placed on the Rwandan government which it accuses of supplying manpower, arms and ammunition to rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda.
Nkunda says his forces are fighting the Rwandan Hutus who crossed into Congo after the 1994 genocide in their country. Yet his forces have also been known to attack civilians and have been accused of widespread atrocities.
The report comes a day after Rwandan President Paul Kagame called for a political deal to end the fighting in eastern Congo. He said said Tutsi general Nkunda has legitimate political grievances. The Democratic Republic of Congo's army and Nkunda are maintaining an uneasy four-day-old ceasefire in North Kivu province.
Amnesty says Nkunda has been accused of war crimes and it urged the international community, Rwanda and the DRC to work together to bring him to justice.
Amnesty spokesperson Andrew Phillips says the relationship between the governments of the DRC and Rwanda in the region is clear.
"Nkunda brings into play regional politics, the whole dimension of Rwanda's ongoing influence in eastern DRC which I think has proved an impediment to international action to bring him to justice," he said. "You have seen in other less sensitive areas of DRC armed group leaders brought to justice, but Nkunda is a different case because he brings into play the very deep ethnic divisions in the Kivus, and he brings into play also Rwanda's continuing role in the unrest in eastern DRC"
The North Kivu fighting has alarmed neighboring countries like Rwanda in the Great Lakes region which has a history of wars, ethnic conflict and border disputes. Rwanda has twice invaded Congo, the last time leading to a 1998-2003 war there that killed some 4 million people, mostly from hunger and disease.