Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged the leaders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to use their influence to stop the ongoing armed conflict in eastern DRC, which he said threatens to undermine the peace process.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, the Secretary-General said he was "encouraged" by the recent meeting between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congolese President Joseph Kabila in Malawi.
"He hopes that the meeting will be followed up by further contacts between the two leaders, as well as a more detailed dialogue between the two Governments on key aspects of the peace process in the DRC and the Great Lakes region," the spokesman said.
In another development, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) today urgently appealed for $378,000 to restart an emergency food airlift operation in early October for thousands of people trapped in eastern DRC. The operation, WFP's second life-saving airlift in that area in three months, will allow the agency to transport food aid to at least 25,000 people in the country's Northern Katanga province, still cut off by war.
Cash from WFP's emergency fund will kick-start the operation, but more money is needed immediately as the humanitarian situation in DRC remains precarious, according to the agency. "It is critical that we receive donations as soon as possible," said David Schaad, WFP Officer in Charge in Kinshasa. "Otherwise, the lives of thousands of people, the vast majority being women and children, will be at risk once again.
When the DRC's war started in 1998, hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes to seek refuge in the bush. Now, the arrival of UN peacekeepers has encouraged thousands to leave their rural hiding places and seek aid in the urban centres. The airlift, which will last three weeks, is the agency's only way of reaching people in Northern Katanga.
To date, the agency has received 40 per cent of its $112 million appeal to feed 1.4 million people in the country. Last year, the agency fed 750,000 people there.