For Immediate Release

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Alun McDonald on +254 73666 6663,

African Crises Escalate as AU Leaders Meet in Libya

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1.4 million homeless so far this year – five people forced to flee every minute of 2009, says Oxfam

Over 1.4 million people have been forced to flee
their homes so far this year as a result of significant increasing
violence in DR Congo, Sudan and Somalia, international agency Oxfam
said today, as heads of state gather at the AU Summit in Libya to
discuss peace and security across the continent.

At the last AU Summit, in January 2009, leaders failed to address
these ongoing conflicts or take measures to protect civilians from
violence and suffering, Oxfam said. Since then, violence in eastern
DRC, south-central Somalia and southern Sudan has escalated even
further and countless more lives have been destroyed. The rest of the
international community has been equally ineffective.

“Every minute of every day since AU leaders last met has seen the
equivalent of a family of five made homeless by these conflicts. The AU
must unequivocally condemn such suffering. It is unacceptable that
right now African women continue to be raped, men killed, families torn
apart and the lives of generations of children are shattered,” said
Desire Assogbavi, Oxfam's Senior Africa Policy Analyst.

Oxfam called on the AU to put renewed emphasis on sustainable
diplomatic and political solutions to these conflicts, rather than
military actions that bring yet more death and misery for civilians,
such as this year's offensives in DR Congo and northern Uganda. It said
the AU had in the past played a key role in forging the peace agreement
between northern and southern Sudan, which although now facing serious
challenges, demonstrates what can be achieved when there is sufficient
political will.

DR Congo has seen the highest levels of displacement since the start
of the year. Up to 800,000 people in eastern DRC have fled as a result
of a new UN-backed military offensive by the Congolese army, which
began in January and has led to numerous reprisal attacks by FDLR
rebels. Terrified communities have told Oxfam staff of widespread rape,
and burning and looting of villages in North and South Kivu.

"The AU must tell the Congolese government that such massive
suffering will not be tolerated. While FDLR atrocities must be
addressed, government troops are also committing unacceptable human
rights violations,” said Assogbavi.

In the past six months, southern Sudan has seen some of the worst
violence and displacement since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement. Around 200,000 people have fled increasingly deadly
conflicts linked to tribal clashes, cattle raids and North-South
tensions. Meanwhile, Darfur remains the scene of one of the world’s
biggest humanitarian crises, and the ongoing conflict has displaced at
least 140,000 people so far this year – most fleeing to already
severely overcrowded camps, and now receiving even less aid following
the recent expulsion of humanitarian agencies.

“With the peace agreement looking increasingly fragile, urgent
diplomatic attention is needed. AU governments played a key role in
forging the peace deal - they must now help keep it alive. A return to
war would have devastating consequences not only for Sudan but all its
neighbors,” said Assogbavi.

Tens of thousands more people have also been made homeless in
northern DR Congo and southern Sudan by ongoing attacks from northern
Uganda’s Lords Resistance Army. A joint military offensive against the
LRA launched in late 2008 has failed to halt its attacks on civilians.

In Somalia, 160,000 people have fled the capital Mogadishu since
May, after an upsurge in fighting between the Transitional Federal
Government and opposition groups and militia. Most are sheltering in
vast camps around the city, where conditions are dire as deteriorating
security makes it harder than ever for aid agencies to reach people in
need. Oxfam called on the AU to urge all parties to the conflict to
respect international law, cease fighting in populated areas, and allow
the safe delivery of aid.

“Peace and security in Africa has made great strides forward over
the past decade – there are now fewer conflicts across the continent,
and African peacekeepers have intervened to protect civilians. However,
the ongoing humanitarian suffering and conflicts in these three
countries are delivering a fatal blow to the hopes of a peaceful and
prosperous future for Africa. The AU must step up and challenge those
that are responsible, and say that enough is enough,” said Assogbavi.



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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

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