Ilunga helps his homeland

Herita Ilunga was a visitor to the Houses of Parliament this week to help kick off a week of events to raise awareness about the Democratic Republic of Congo, his home country.

Congo Now week runs from 4-8 May and will bring together artists, writers, public figures and activists to highlight the suffering of the Congolese people yet also celebrate the culture of this vast African country, which is roughly the size of western Europe. Actress Thandie Newton features on the bill at a celebration of Congo's culture at London's Southbank Centre on Thursday evening.

Ilunga spent the first three years of his life in Congo before his family moved over to France but returns there regularly to play for his national team. He said: "Despite the atrocities the Congolese people are suffering now, it remains a magnificent country, with a warm and unbeaten spirit and a huge richness and diversity of culture. Such violence against civilians, particularly children and women, is totally unacceptable. Everyone must mobilise not just to reduce the violence, but to stop it completely."

Conflict in the east of Congo between rebels supported by neighbouring Rwanda and the Congolese army has led to the displacement of more than 1.5 million people from their homes. It is estimated that more than five million people have died as a result of the conflict in the country - and the attendant hunger and disease - over the last decade.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region of Africa is the driving force behind the Congo Now week and has joined forces with a large number of charities to ask the British government and international donors to play their part in tackling the underlying issues behind the longstanding conflict in Congo.

The more information on Congo Now, click here