CHRISTIAN CHARITIES are demanding urgent relief measures to salvage the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Zaire.
Henry Northover, Cafod's Policy Officer for Africa, said this week that the response of the international community had been "half hearted". He called on British politicians to unite in their condemnation of the tragedy: "As a senior member of the United Nations' Security Council and a close Commonwealth partner of Uganda, Britain is uniquely placed to insist that the rebels' regional allies exert maximum pressure on them to stop the killing of refugees and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid."
The agency says that local relief efforts are being severely hampered and it has called for independent human rights observers to be deployed to the region as soon as possible.
UN officials this week reported the death of Rwandan Hutu refugees, crushed as they attempted to board a train carrying them from a refugee camp in Zaire. Ninety-one were killed. Onlookers said that the refugees, desperate to leave the worsening conditions of the camps, had crammed into and between the carriages.
Christian Blind Mission, which is working at the Virunga hospital in Goma, east Zaire confirmed the plight of the refugees. Many are too ill to make the journey to Rwanda and are being abandoned at the hospital. A spokesman for the charity said, "Many are dying when they arrive. There's nothing we can do to save them. Where is the justice in this?"
Peace talks between Laurent Kabila, the rebel leader,and President Mobutu collapsed this week. Mr Kabila now threats to fight his way to the capital, Kinshasa.