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 CNS Story:

CARITAS-CONGO Jun-6-2007 (470 words) xxxi

Caritas official, archbishop warn Congo faces full-scale war

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo is on the brink of full-scale war unless the government and international community intervene, said a Caritas official and the archbishop of Bukavu, Congo.

Bruno Miteyo, director of Caritas Congo, told Catholic News Service that "all the elements are there to bring the country to war." Caritas Congo is the local affiliate of Caritas Internationalis, the umbrella group of Catholic social service agencies.

Weapons are being taken into the country over the borders and civilians are being killed, raped or kidnapped, stirring up lingering ethnic hatreds and fueling fresh clashes, Miteyo said June 5 at a press conference during Caritas' June 3-9 general assembly at the Vatican.

Congo is still struggling to recover from years of ethnic violence and a 1998-2003 civil war that displaced 1.6 million people and left another 4 million people dead, making it one of the world's bloodiest conflicts since World War II.

Despite a peace process and democratic elections in 2006, Congolese still "don't feel we are unified or part of one nation. Some parts of the country are still under (the control of) rebels," said Miteyo.

He said Caritas has stepped up its efforts to promote peace and education in a country where the economy and infrastructure are in shambles. Out of emergency relief projects grow long-term development programs such as building schools and hospitals and helping local villagers set up their own businesses, he said.

Poverty, rampant illiteracy and lack of education have made people especially vulnerable to manipulative leaders who try to stoke ethnic tensions, he said. Corruption is a major challenge, he added, because some international aid is diverted from development programs and pocketed by government officials.

He said Caritas and the Congolese bishops "need the international community's cooperation" in demanding transparency in aid financing because "everyone can live better (in Congo); there is enough for everybody" if only resources were more honestly and evenly distributed, he said.

In an urgent appeal dated May 28, Archbishop Francois Maroy Rusengo of Bukavu warned Bernard Prevost, French ambassador to Congo, of "imminent war" in the country's eastern province of Kivu. CNS obtained a copy of the letter from Caritas officials.

The archbishop said that in eastern Congo, which borders Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, "there is movement of a massive and systematic infiltration coming from Rwanda." Some foreigners have been accused of recruiting rebels inside Congo, he said.

The country's army is too weak and disorganized to defend its own civilians, noted Miteyo and the archbishop.

The archbishop called on Congolese President Joseph Kabila to "send in elite troops, who must counter the imminent war in North and South Kivu before it is too late" and urged U.N. peacekeepers there to protect civilians.


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