October 28, 2008
STATEMENT BY THE UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM ON THE DETERIORATING SITUATION IN EASTERN CONGO
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Recent events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where rebel forces are battling the Congolese Army throughout the volatile province of North Kivu, threaten to escalate and expand the ongoing violence in the region, placing the civilian population at extreme risk.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has been actively monitoring and raising awareness about the ongoing violence and deteriorating situation in the Eastern Congo, calls on all parties to engage in a serious commitment to bringing peace to the region.
“As the conflict escalates, the protection of civilians affected by the ongoing violence is crucial,” said John Heffernan, Director of the Museum’s Genocide Prevention Initiative.
A decade of war fueled in part by the complex aftermath of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda has resulted in more than 5.4 million deaths and left a legacy of ethnic mistrust, competition over land, massive sexual violence used as a weapon of war, and the destruction of the region’s infrastructure.
Earlier this year hopes for peace were bolstered by a U.S.-supported conference in Goma and a subsequent ceasefire. However, the ongoing fighting in North Kivu involving rebel forces loyal to dissident general Laurent Nkunda threatens what little hope remains for stability in Eastern Congo.
In 2003, the Museum placed the DRC on its warning list because of the organized violence that was occurring there. The Museum’s concerns about the situation in the Congo in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide include the scale and effects of violence against civilians, the massive number of sexual assaults on women, continued fighting in the east, and the role of ethnicity in the perpetration of violence. In December 2007, Museum representatives traveled to Eastern Congo, and in 2008 the Museum partnered with Google Earth in an unprecedented online mapping initiative aimed at furthering awareness and action in Congo. World is Witness enables more than 400 million Google Earth users worldwide to visualize and better understand what is happening there.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum strives to inspire leaders and citizens to confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity and strengthen democracy. Federal support guarantees the Museum's permanence, and donors nationwide make possible its educational activities and global outreach. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.