BURUNDI-DRC: Regional ministers push to end eastern DRC violence

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The UN Mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) and the Congolese army should step up efforts to eliminate "negative forces" in order to improve the security situation in eastern Congo, regional foreign ministers said.

Meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the ministers were referring to the instability caused by factions including the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) former general, Laurent Nkunda, and the ex-FAR/Interahamwe.

"Delegations expressed concern about deteriorating security conditions in eastern Congo, in particular the destabilising roles of former general, Laurent Nkunda, and the ex-FAR/Interahamwe. [They] committed themselves to support the DRC in its efforts to end the violence and reduce the regional security threat of these and other negative forces in eastern Congo," a communiqué issued on 17 September said.

The talks, which came in the wake of weeks of fighting in eastern DRC, were convened under the so-called "Tripartite Plus Joint Commission", and were attended by officials from Burundi, DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and the UN, and facilitated by the United States.

As a result, the UN will be called upon to send in more troops and equipment to enable the force to handle the situation in the DRC.

"MONUC presented its reports during the meeting and observed that the DRC was too big for them to handle. They have to handle Nkunda, they also have to handle the LRA [Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army], and other negative groups in the DRC," said one official.

The ministers endorsed the plan to establish a Joint Planning Cell, while Congo committed to convene a political-level meeting of the Congo-Rwanda Joint Verification Commission on 21 September in Goma, "with a view to easing tensions in the Kivus".

A legal advisory team from the tripartite member countries will meet in Bukavu on 29-31 October to complete a review of legal measures that may be taken against those who have threatened peace and security in the region.

Clashes erupted late last month between forces loyal to Nkunda and government troops.

The UN envoy to the DRC, William Swing, expressed concern that the violence had continued to disrupt the work of the government which was voted in last year in the country's first free elections in 41 years.

"We remain concerned that the fighting in eastern DRC and the continued delay in dealing with negative forces in the DRC has disrupted the government from the work it has to do. We would prefer to finish the job of dealing with armed groups in the DRC so that foreign groups there can return home, and the local DRC militia forces can be disarmed and become integrated into the local forces," Swing told reporters.

The regional governments have committed to negotiate a tripartite agreement with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) within two months, in order to prepare for the return of remaining refugees.

The region has suffered violent clashes since the early 1990s, which evolved into a regional war that raged in the DRC between 1998 and 2003.

Source: IRIN