Rights body blames state, UN for escalating drc war

KINSHASA - Congo's leaders, foreign donors and the United Nations were slow to see the risk of fresh conflict in the nation's east, leaving civilians open to murder, rape and looting by armed groups, Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday.

Government soldiers, renegade Tutsi fighters and Hutu rebels from Rwanda were all responsible for widespread abuses in DRC's North Kivu province, including the massacre of civilians, rape and forcing children to fight, HRW said.

"The Congolese government, backed by the international community, tried several short-term solutions to the fighting, but failed to deal with the underlying causes of conflict," the New York-based rights group added.

"The inability of the state to protect its citizens from attack, the claims of armed groups to control parts of the territory and exploit its wealth, and the near total impunity for perpetrators of crimes, all remain unsolved."

Congo's army has been fighting rebels loyal to Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda since August, when his men pulled out of integrated government brigades. The clashes have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. - Reuters