- The UN Human rights agency has called for urgent action against the deteriorating humanitarian crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The DRC High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned that long dragging violence and fighting in eastern provinces could spark outbreaks of large-scale violence in the rest of the country, including the Great Lakes region of Africa.
The conflict in eastern provinces, between renegade army leader, General Laurent Nkunda and army backed Mai Mai, which erupted in August, has already driven a quarter of a million people out of their homes.
Ms Pillay said recent reports also suggest an escalation of sexual violence in its most brutal forms, committed by all sides in the conflict, including soldiers belonging to the national army.
"I was appalled to learn that last week a 13-year-old girl was raped so viciously in a camp for displaced people in Kibati, that she died as a result," she added.
She said thousands of women have been raped over the past decade without justice, saying the crime will continue if crisis is not averted. "The people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are destitute, but the country's mineral wealth is vast," Ms. Pillay said.
The Commissioner said a lucrative trade in illegally mined minerals is fuelling the Congolese conflict and that proceeds from the illicit business are the main source of financial support for the warring factions in eastern DRC.
General Nkunda who claims to be protecting Congo's minority Tutsis, whom are threatened by Hutu militias from Rwanda, has called ceasefire but went back to war again when Kinshasa government rejected negotiations advances.
The upsurge in fighting in North Kivu province bordering Rwanda and growing involvement of neighbouring states in moves to end the conflict have raised fears of a repeat of the 1998 to 2003 DRC war.
The UN Security Council authorised a temporary increase of more than 3,000 blue helmets serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC to deal with the violence in the country's east.
DRC already has 17,000 blue-helmeted peacekeepers on the ground serving with the mission, the largest UN force worldwide but one faced with the task of quelling unrest and protecting civilians.
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