The human rights group Amnesty International says the recent dramatic escalation of violence puts the eastern DRC at risk of becoming a "humanitarian catastrophe." Amnesty is calling for more UN peacekeeping troops to be sent to the region and greater international pressure to be placed on the warring parties.
Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of Amnesty International's Africa program, spoke from London to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about how the current crisis could be resolved.
"Several things can actually be done at this stage to prevent the situation deteriorating further. And the first [is] that the CNDP, which is one of the armed opposition groups and the one that's fighting currently against of the government of DRC forces – They need to stop their attacks, which are leading to civilians having to flee and civilian causalities. We also need to see diplomatic pressure being applied on the CNDP and countries that have influence on the CNDP, such as Rwanda," he says.
He says that the pressure needs to come from both the region and the international community, including the UN Security Council.
"We're calling for the United Nations Security Council to take immediate and urgent steps to maker sure that MONUC, which is the UN peacekeeping force…is reinforced and provided with the military hardware in order to enable it to discharge its mandate of protecting civilians in eastern DRC," he says.
Asked what real pressure could be placed on the warring parties, Hondora says, "There are countries obviously that provide both moral and material support to some of these armed groups operating in eastern DRC. They need to be leaned upon to stop these attacks. They're killing civilians, women and children. And if not checked, we will see a situation where neighboring countries also begin to be destabilized. So, it is very important for countries that are neighbors of the DRC – Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and all other countries that are in the surrounding region – to put pressure. The AU, especially the Peace and Security Council, ought to become involved in this."
He warns that time is short. "We cannot wait to see another situation develop in eastern DRC, which is similar to the one witnessed between 1998 and 2002, where more than three million people died. It has to be stopped."The Amnesty International official says the UN arms embargo on the DRC has obviously failed.