Caritas-Italy Laments "Silent" War of Congo

Appeals to World Community Not to Forget the Conflict

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ROME, SEPT. 5, 2003 ( Caritas-Italy criticized the relative media silence hanging over one of Africa’s bloodiest wars: the five-year Congolese conflict that has cost 3 million lives.

Some of the are victims of the war’s fallout, including lost harvests, malnutrition and poor health care.

At the root of the conflict, which has involved Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia in supporting two adversary factions, is the struggle against groups of the Rwandan rebellion. Another factor is the fight for control of the country’s gold, diamonds, oil and other natural resources.

Upon returning from a mission in Congo, Caritas-Italy issued a recent statement referring to “five years of ‘silent’ war'” and calling attention to “the most dramatic conflict of the continent.”

“Very little is said about this war,” Maurizio Marmo, director of Caritas-Italy’s African Section, told Vatican Radio. “Only those interested in Africa or in forgotten conflicts are able to find news in specialized agencies.”

Marmo said the media have reported on “some massacres and certain relevant episodes, but more in-depth information is lacking, especially an analysis and a denunciation of what is occurring.”

Caritas-Italy visited the eastern dioceses of Goma and Kindu. Despite the difficult situation, “in these weeks a government of transition has been inaugurated which looks like it might be able to bring the conflict to an end,” Marmo said.

Agreements in recent years, made in Lusaka, Pretoria and Luanda, as well as the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, have ratified important commitments that led to the formation of the transition government in which all parties in the conflict are represented, as well as the unarmed opposition and civil society.

Caritas has urged international institutions to exert pressure on the parties in the Congolese conflict. It has also pushed for a regional conference, including the countries of the Great Lakes region, to find solutions for a lasting peace.

Situations of uncertainty and conflict between border countries “obviously spread the consequences to the whole region,” Marmo said. “Only if a real attempt is made to bring together the diverse governments and factions to find solutions that can be shared by all can there be a possibility to establish a situation of peace for all the peoples.”

Confrontations and massacres still occur in the Ituri district and some in the Kivu area, he said.

Yet, there is confidence that the violence will soon end, thanks also to the action of the U.N. Mission in the Congo, which on July 28 received a new one-year mandate from the Security Council and the authority to use force to protect civilians.

Caritas-Italy has worked with local ecclesial groups to carry out emergency and development projects in Congo, including programs for health care and economic promotion.

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