Actress Thandie Newton and West Ham star Herita Ilunga kick off Congo Now!
(London, 30 April 2009) The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to one of the most brutal and deadly conflicts since the Second World War, and it does not get the attention it deserves. On Monday 4 May, West Ham and Congolese international footballer Herita Ilunga will kick off a week of awareness-raising events to draw attention to an unacceptable crisis – one that has gone from the headlines but which has not gone away.
Artists, writers, public figures and activists will come together under the banner of Congo Now! to highlight not just the unacceptable suffering of the Congolese people, but also the country’s untapped potential, its creativity and cultural energy. The week will include an evening of cultural celebration at the Southbank Centre, featuring Thandie Newton performing an Eve Ensler monologue, Sharon D. Clarke, photographs by Susan Schulman, and celebrated Congolese musicians Kasai Masai and Sofra (see Notes to Editors).
Last year, Congo was briefly in the headlines when fighting between armed groups in the east of the country sent 250,000 people running for their lives, bringing the total number of people displaced from their homes to over 1.2 million. The recent improvement in relations between Rwanda and the DRC may be a cause for hope, but rebel groups and even the Congolese national army continue to kill, rape and rob civilians with impunity. And since the start of this year a fresh chapter in the country’s prolonged conflict has forced another quarter of a million people from their homes– a crisis just as great as last year’s. Immediate and sustained efforts are required now by British and other international policy makers to finally tackle the underlying issues which drive the conflict and break the cycle of violence. Since 1998, more than 5 million people have died as a result of the conflict in the Congo, and the hunger and disease that it unleashes.
West Ham footballer Herita Ilunga said: "Despite the atrocities the Congolese people are suffering now, it remains a magnificent country, with a warm and unbeaten spirit and a huge richness and diversity of culture. Such violence against civilians, particularly children and women, is totally unacceptable. Everyone must mobilise not just to reduce the violence, but to stop it completely."
The All Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region of Africa, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Common Cause UK, Global Witness, Human Rights Watch, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, Save the Children, V-Day UK, War Child, WILPF and World Vision are calling on the UK government and other international donors to:
· Uphold the commitments to civilian protection and respect for human rights. Urge the United Nations to appoint a human rights special envoy for eastern Congo to ensure that human rights concerns are central to policy making. Make support for an effective reform of the justice sector a priority.
· Significantly and urgently increase and improve assistance for those displaced from their homes and for the families and communities who host them.
· Support active measures to demilitarise the mining sector in eastern Congo and ensure that the trade is not benefiting any of the warring parties.
· Press for and support effective and coordinated reform of the national army and police and ensure those accused of human rights abuses are removed from the senior ranks rather than being promoted.
· Support the Congolese parliament and civil society in their role of ensuring democratic accountability and promoting development.
· Support measures for the protection and better participation of women and vulnerable children, notably a national action plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, and measures to reduce child poverty, improve education, and champion the reintegration of child soldiers and street children.
Notes to Editors
This year, Congo Now! runs from 4-8 May: for updates, please see www.congonow.org
Monday 4 May (11:00-11:45) – Congolese international and West Ham star Herita Ilunga launches the week at a community football tournament in Regent’s Park in cooperation with Christian Aid. A Question & Answer session with budding footballers will be followed by a statement and photo opportunity at the Hub.
Thursday 7 May (19:45) – Congo Now! will reach its zenith in an evening of celebration hosted by the Southbank Centre, in collaboration with the All Party Group, photojournalist Susan Schulman and V-Day UK. British and Congolese musicians, writers and public figures including the celebrated Kasai Masai, singer/songwriter Sofra, singer and actress Sharon D Clarke, Tim Butcher (Blood River) and Oona King will be joined by Thandie Newton performing a new monologue by acclaimed writer Eve Ensler. For details and tickets, please see http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/all-events/productions/congo-now--45672
Friday 8 May: (18:00) – Doughty Street Chambers and Human Rights Watch will screen The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court, an award-winning documentary following the drama of how the world is seeking to apply the rule of law and hold to account perpetrators of unspeakable crimes in places like the Congo, Uganda and Sudan. The film will be followed by a panel discussion on the challenges of seeking justice in the Congo. Venue: 53-54 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LS. Please RSVP to email@example.com
Friday 8 May (09:00-10:00) – Another Kind of Struggle: the Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on the Democratic Republic of Congo – a discussion chaired by Dr Muzong Kodi at The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, 10 St James's Square, SW1Y 4LE
For further information, please contact: Stephen Carter, Coordinator, APPG on the Great Lakes Region of Africa +44 20 7219 1165 / +44 7803 052 872 / firstname.lastname@example.org