A leading European think-tank has warned that world leaders must act quickly to save a faltering peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo or risk the return of full-scale war. "Without the strong support of the international community, the peace process in the Congo and the U.N. effort to sustain it are at risk of failure," says Gareth Evans, head of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
In a letter to foreign ministers of the United States, France, Britain, Belgium, South Africa, as well as to the U.N. Security Council, he says a transitional government set up in Kinshasa last year is not being given enough support.
Mr. Evans argues that the United Nations has authorized only 10,800 troops in a nation the size of western Europe, and many of those troops are poorly trained and equipped. He says efforts to establish a national army that can ensure stability have faltered, and various armed groups are now posing a threat to Congo's security.
He also warns that the recent massacre of Congolese refugees in the region and fighting in the Kivu provinces have raised tensions that can quickly spiral into another major war.
Susan Linnee, Central Africa project director for the International Crisis Group, says the situation in Congo is grave.
"There is growing concern about further attacks on minorities of basically Tutsi background," she said. "There's almost complete paralysis in Kinshasa, where the government has done very little to move things forward in the political process."
The appeal from the International Crisis Group comes one day after the Congolese Rally for Democracy, once the main rebel group, suspended its participation in the transitional government.
Congo is trying to recover from five years of civil war that claimed as many as three million lives. Its transitional government has been rocked by violent uprisings in the eastern provinces and by two failed coup attempts this year.