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Congo Government Setting Up Fund to Manage All Aid Donations

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock is flanked by Sigrid Kaag (L), Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, the Netherlands, and Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, during a pledging conference of Congo at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, April 13, 2018.

Democratic Republic of Congo plans to set up a special fund to manage all aid donations under a new draft law, its cabinet said on Tuesday, a week after it failed to show up at an international donors conference.

The United Nations is seeking $2.2 billion to support about 13 million people in Congo this year caught up in a litany of humanitarian crises caused by ethnic and militia conflicts that conjure some of the worst memories of the 1998-2003 civil war.

At a conference last week international donors pledged $528 million towards that effort, including bringing food to 2.2 million children with severe acute malnutrition that makes them susceptible to death from disease.

In a statement, Congo's cabinet said its new Humanitarian Fund Management Agency would "manage, monitor and control humanitarian funds and work to channel all financial flows affecting the humanitarian sector" in the country.

It was not clear how the new fund would work, whether international donors would agree to send money into an account run by the Kinshasa government, and whether the new fund would jeopardise funding already agreed under previous rules.

A U.N. spokesman said it was waiting for "further clarity" from the Congolese government before commenting. Still, the decision to change the way it accepts funds came at a delicate time for the Central African copper producer.

President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step down from power when his mandate ran out in 2016 has led to a breakdown in state authority in much of the remote east of Congo, stoking age-old conflicts that have forced 4.3 million people from their homes.

The decision also coincides with a cooling in Congo's international relations capped by Kabila's decision not to attend the U.N. pledging conference in Geneva last week.

Kinshasa has denied there is a humanitarian crisis in the giant central African country, and accused foreign powers of stigmatizing the country and scaring away investment.