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East African Leaders must lay Foundation for Sustainable Peace

As East African Heads of State gather in Nairobi to discuss solutions to conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo ActionAid urges them to take immediate measures to assist those worst affected and engage in negotiations that will lay the foundation for sustainable peace.

 Florence Mwenge from ActionAid DRC said:“Our primary concern is for the women of DRC, who need immediate protection against sexual and physical attack from both sides of the conflict.

“The UN must ensure that its peacekeeping force does the job it was mandated to do and protects the innocent, while DRC establishes a legitimate police force.”“Women are telling us that they are scared to go outside to farm their land or even fetch firewood.“They are the ones left to care for children in the absence of their husbands, but constant rounds of fighting and displacement means they are unable to provide food, shelter and security for themselves and their families.The UN estimates that there are approximately 140,000 internally displaced people living in and around Goma. ActionAid is working with approximately 17,000 of these people in the eastern province of North Kivu, which only yesterday it regained access to.Over two thirds of people who fled North Kivu are returning home.  As the sole agency operating in the area, ActionAid will be the first line of response for thousands in need of food, shelter and assistance    rebuilding their livelihoods.“It’s good that aid agencies are gradually regaining access to those affected by the conflict, but significantly more must be done by governments to prevent  a humanitarian crisis “Meeting people’s basic need for food, water, and shelter are key at this stage. Taxes imposed by M23 at road blocks and the collective impact of people unable to access their crops, means food prices are spiraling out of control,” Said MwengeActionAid is calling on leaders attending the summit to also look at the historical drivers behind the conflict, not least the scramble for control over natural resources:

“The rush for diamonds, oil and other natural resources has been a historical and significant driver of conflict in DRC. This is aggravated by the fact that there is no proper guidance  on administration of natural resources governance. 

“As  countries especially in East Africa  discover oil and  other natural resources, World leaders must recognise this gap, heed their mistakes and set out clear policies to guide the distribution of this new-found wealth,” said Mwenge

The aid agency is also recommending that women from communities affected by the conflict be given a place at the peace talks.

“Our experience shows that women bring a different perspective to peace discussions.  Their role in ending the conflict and restoring peace in their communities is fundamental”

ActionAid has brought three women from a women’s network in DRC who are seeking access to the East Africa Heads of State Summit to demand that women be given the space to influence the decisions being taken on the country’s future. 

Editors' notes

For more information or interviews contact in (Nairobi) Lucy Wanjiku on Lucy. Wanjiku@actionaid.org or +254722616691 or ( in London)  Natalie Curtis  Natalie Curtis, Tel: +44 (0) 203 122 0641 or natalie.curtis@actionaid.org