DR Congo lack of action 'racist'

Woman cries in DR Congo refugee camp after being mobbed for her food aid
This woman was mobbed after being given aid in a refugee camp

The world is not sending enough troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo because of discrimination, a former top UN official has told the BBC.

There is "inbuilt discrimination when it comes to Africa", said Jan Egeland, pointing to the world's response to crises in the Middle East and Europe.

He is one of 16 world leaders to sign a letter calling on the European Union to send troops to DR Congo.

Some 250,000 people have fled recent fighting in eastern DR Congo.

The UN this month said it would send an extra 3,000 troops to DR Congo, on top of the 17,000 already there - the world's largest peacekeeping force.

But Mr Egeland said this was not enough for DR Congo, which is almost the size of western Europe.

He referred to diplomatic peace efforts as a "seminar".

"There was not this indecisiveness in the Balkans, Iraq or the wider Middle East," the former UN aid chief told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

'Painful memories'

Some 5,000 people have fled the latest rebel advance into neighbouring Uganda, Amnesty International researcher Andrew Phillip told the BBC.

Some of those who crossed the border told aid workers that their relatives had been killed by the rebels.

CNDP: Gen Nkunda's Tutsi rebels - 6,000 fighters
FDLR: Rwandan Hutus - 6-7,000
Mai Mai: pro-government militia - 3,500
Monuc: UN peacekeepers - 6,000 in North Kivu, including about 1,000 in Goma (17,000 nationwide)
DRC army - 90,000 (nationwide)
Source: UN, military experts

The rebels of General Laurent Nkunda declared a ceasefire last week and withdrew from some of their positions but say this does not apply to operations against foreign militia.

The Tutsi-dominated forces say they are attacking Rwanda Hutu fighters, some of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

The UN has accused all sides of mass killings and rape in the latest fighting which resumed in August, with rebels advancing on the regional capital, Goma.

"To those of us who have worked on such issues for some time, current events bring back painful memories of Rwanda and Srebrenica," reads the letter, also signed by the former leaders of the Czech Republic (Vaclav Havel), South Africa (FW de Klerk), Ireland (Mary Robinson) and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and sent to EU heads of state.

"It is increasingly clear that the EU is best placed - through its standing battle groups - to play this role and deploy now," they wrote.

On Wednesday, the Congolese government rejected an offer from India to supply extra peacekeeping troops.

They already account for about a quarter of the UN force in DR Congo, known as Monuc.

A government spokesman refused to give reasons why the Indian offer was declined.

Map of eastern DR Congo

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