NGOs welcome multinational force

Three NGOs active in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have welcomed the deployment of a multinational force in the town of Bunia, and urged it to uphold its mandate to protect women and children from warring militiamen.

In a letter to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, World Vision International, Save the Children and Care International said the deployment of the force would help humanitarian agencies to respond more effectively to "rising civilian casualties, random violence, forced displacement, food insecurity and violations of human rights" in the region.

On 30 May, the Security Council authorised the deployment of the French-led 1,500-strong multinational force in Bunia, Ituri District, where months of inter-militia fighting has caused deaths of at least 300 people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more.

In their letter, the NGOs urged the UN to follow up on the deployment with "long-term measures to address the roots of the conflict".

The NGOs also called for the expansion of the mandate of the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, to augment humanitarian operations by UN agencies and civil society organisations.

They urged the Security Council to address the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country, the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the role of neighbouring countries in the conflict.

The NGOs said that if these issues were not solved, conflict would continue to rage and claim thousands of civilian lives.