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Christian Aid calls upon UK Government to act further on upsurge of violence in DRC

November 22 2012 - Christian Aid welcomes the UK Government’s initiative to engage urgently with the Congolese, Rwandan and Ugandan governments to help peace and stability return to the Democratic Republic of Congo in light of the M23 rebels’ takeover of Goma and further advances in the east of the country.

As a result of heavy fighting between DRC government forces and M23 rebels, thousands of civilians are fleeing while others have been forced to abandon the camps to which they fled during the fighting earlier this year.

This has only worsened the humanitarian crisis with reports that 700,000 already displaced people in Goma and surrounding areas are at risk. With the M23 expanding their area of control this figure is likely to rise further.

After a lull in violence, fighting restarted in the region on Thursday and has culminated in the rebels taking control of the provincial capital Goma, pushing back the DRC army and UN troops. Protection of civilians is now a major concern following past M23 atrocities.

Today a report from the UN Group of Experts has revealed that Rwanda and Uganda support armed groups, including the M23 rebels, who continue to commit atrocities such as rape and executions in the region. The report goes as far as stating that Rwanda is in full control of the M23 rebels and making all of the group’s decisions.

Both governments have strongly denied this when similar allegations were made previously. The report contains strong evidence, gathered by a group of respected international experts and based on eyewitness testimony. The UK must act on this evidence in its dealings with Rwanda and Uganda.

Chantal Daniels, Policy & Advocacy Advisor for Central Africa, Christian Aid said, 'With the current upsurge of violence and the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, there is a desperate need for the UK Government to position itself clearly and to push actively for solutions for the current military and humanitarian crisis in the DRC.

'This requires robust engagement with all relevant actors in the region to end the fighting and to step up efforts to guarantee protection of civilians and increased means for humanitarian assistance.

'We want the UK Government to use its leverage and influence in the region, as well as a Security Council Member, to invest in the development of a long-term stabilisation framework that addresses local, national and regional root-causes of the conflict.

'We believe that neutral mediation for these negotiations is absolutely key to ensure commitment from all actors to the conflict. Specifically, we are asking the UK to promote the appointment of a UN/AU Special Envoy to lead such mediation in close collaboration with the International Conference on the Great Lakes.'

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If you would like further information, please contact Claire Meeghan on +44 (0)20 7523 2318. 24 hour press duty phone – 07850 242950  

Notes to Editors:

1. The Group of Experts interviewed over 120 deserters of FARDC mutinies and Congolese armed groups, including from the M23. Among the latter, they interviewed 57 Rwandan nationals and two Ugandan nationals.

2. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around some 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

3. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. We believe that the underlying causes of poverty were made by, and can be ended by, human action. Our strategy for building the power of us all to end poverty is embodied in a new report ‘Partnership for Change’: http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/2012_strategy.pdf

4. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 125 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development.  Further details at http://actalliance.org

5. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

6. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk