Congo Prison Called Africa's Worst
A prison in Goma in eastern Congo with 850 prisoners crammed into a facility built for 150 is the worst in Africa, a top United Nations human rights official said late Friday.
The official, Dmitry Titov, a United Nations assistant secretary general, said the humanitarian situation in eastern Congo was "dire," but he said that United Nations peacekeepers were right to support the army in operations to stop carnage in the country despite intense criticism.
Congo's government, backed by the United Nations' largest peacekeeping force, is still struggling to stabilize eastern areas three years after the international community helped organize elections meant to offer the nation a new start.
"I've traveled in many parts of Africa in postconflict situations, but the prison in Goma is the most terrible I've ever seen," said Mr. Titov, adding that the conditions there were "inhumane."
"Inmates sleep in hallways, near septic tanks, which spreads diseases in the prison and beyond," he said.
The 2006 elections were seen as an important step toward the return of law and order after nearly 15 years of violence, during which Congolese rebel groups and foreign armies fought two wars, committed abuses and looted the nation's minerals.
But human rights groups have become increasingly frustrated that the government of Congo's president, Joseph Kabila, and the United Nations peacekeepers who support him have failed to make lasting progress in improving human rights and the rule of law.
"The situation is dire; we do admit criticism," Mr. Titov said.