DR Congo: Holy See calls for end to violence, urges dialogue

 As thousands of people continue to flee eastern Congo despite a unilateral ceasefire announced by the rebels, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has asked parties in the conflict to renounce confrontation and embrace dialogue.

The parties should place the common good above their own interests or those of their party, the Council said in a statement.

"The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace also asks the international community to intervene with all its strength in resolving the conflict in question, especially in seeing to the fulfilment of the various peace accords that have been signed by the parties concerned.

The Council underlined the importance of reaching a peaceful solution, warning that "there can be no integral peace if it is not based upon dialogue and reconciliation, which are necessary conditions for stability and solid development.

Council president Cardinal Renato Martino said "the world cannot continue looking on without reacting to the death of innocent victims of acts of violence and barbarity, and with indifference towards the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the war, who are exposed to the weather, sickness, and hunger.

Tens of thousands of people are fleeing eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, moving towards Rwanda and Uganda, while rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has declared a unilateral ceasefire. The capital of Goma is still in the hands of the government, although Nkunda's guerrillas are at its gates, FIDES reported.

Thousands of refugees have headed to the city, forced to abandon refugee camps, as the government's soldiers, according to UN sources, are plundering the area, rising up against civilians.

In Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu, tensions are high, as many of the refugees fleeing North Kivu begin to enter the area.

The international community seems to be powerless. The 17, 000 troops of the UN Mission in Congo (MONUC) have been ineffective.

The war-torn Kivu region covers some 256,000 sq km. Kivu is bordered by Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania. Administratively, the region is divided in North and South Kivu. The capital of North Kivu is Goma, where the conflict has been taking place most recently, and the capital of South Kivu is Bukavu.

The region is rich in minerals, among them diamonds, gold, uranium and coltan. It also has great potential in terms of forestry, agriculture, water, and energy (there are petroleum and gas reserves beneath Lake Kivu and Lake Tanganyika).

Kivu has always been a region of great migration patterns by the Hutu and Tutsi, coming from Rwanda, which is accused of supporting General Nkunda, a charge it denies.

Source: CISA

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