Dear friends of the APPG,
We presented the report of our Congo mission to Gillian Merron, the DFID minister of state responsible for Africa, in July. We made a few minor additions after the meeting, and I'm now pleased to launch the report publicly. For a copy, please click here, or go to the APPG website (www.africangreatlakes.org).
A brief summary of the report: The Democratic Republic of Congo has made significant progress since the start of the transition, but it is clear most of the underlying challenges facing the country remain unresolved and are a grave threat to any gains. In the latest in in its series of reports the APPG reviews key areas of concern and recommendations for urgent action almost two years after the 2006 elections. Among these challenges are the imminent threat of the unresolved conflict in the east, the lack of meaningful security sector reform, the slow progress on education and protection of children, the ongoing wave of violence against women, the need to improve democratic accountability and protection of human rights, and the problem of corruption and poor governance – particularly of natural resources.
The Congo is of critical significance to the future of Africa, and is the scene of human suffering on a scale unparalleled since the Second World War. The conflict has cost more than 5.4 million lives since 1998, mainly through disease, poor nutrition, and lack of healthcare: most of these are children under 5. This is a considerably worse disaster than the one affecting Darfur, but commands a fraction of the international attention. It demands concerted, long-term and effective engagement by the UK and the whole world.
Time is fast running out before the approach of the next election cycle, and perhaps disillusionment among the Congolese people, will make it more difficult to act. Both the Congolese government and its international partners face a difficult task, and their efforts so far have not been insignificant: Congo has its best chance in decades. But if greater progress is not made on the big underlying issues, there is a risk their investment will count for little.
This document is intended as a summary of key issues and recommendations arising from the Group's mission to the DRC in April 2008, and related meetings and research. During the 5-day mission, three UK members of parliament (APPG Chair Eric Joyce, Judy Mallaber, and Jeremy Corbyn), visited north Kivu, a province heavily affected by conflict in the east of the country, and the capital of Kinshasa. They met with government ministers, the Presidents of the Senate and National Assembly and a wide range of Congolese parliamentarians, representatives of the belligerent parties in the Goma peace process, many international and Congolese civil society actors, diplomatic representatives from the UK and other countries, and MONUC and other agencies. It is one part of the wider follow-up to the visit, and a fulfilment of the commitment made to those whom the delegation met that the mission would produce concrete outcomes. The report should not be taken to represent the views of other individual members of the APPG.
We will be following up the report in the new parliamentary session, and hope to release a French language version. I'd welcome your thoughts on the document in the meantime.
Stephen Carter, Coordinator