Sunday, 26 May 2013

Rwanda is key to peace in eastern Congo: Ban

Press TV
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says Rwanda is the key to ensuring peace and stability in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ban made the remarks in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Friday, a day after he started a visit to the Great Lakes region of Africa to promote a new deal to end the long-running conflict in mineral-rich eastern Congo, which shares a border with Rwanda.

In February, 11 African countries signed a UN-mediated peace agreement to end the crisis in the east of the DRC, which led to the establishment of a special brigade of UN peacekeepers with a mandate to attack rebel groups.

That deal "is the best chance for peace in many years," Ban told reporters in Kigali.

"I am appealing to all leaders to play their part… Rwanda is critical to the framework's success," he added.

The UN and Kinshasa have accused neighboring Rwanda and Uganda of helping the rebels in Congo.

Rwanda and Uganda have repeatedly denied the charges that they are backing the March 23 movement (M23), but Kigali and Kampala have never publicly condemned the militia, which is strengthening its grip over the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu in the eastern Congo and could seriously threaten the writ of the Congolese government in the region.

From Kigali, Ban travelled to Entebbe in Uganda, where he met Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

The UN secretary general said the Ugandan president assured him that peace talks between M23 and the Congolese government would continue in Kampala.

"The people of DRC have suffered too much for too long. They are tired of war, tired of poverty, tired of impunity," Ban told reporters at a press conference in Entebbe.

"All across Africa, countries are on the rise to reach their potential. There is no reason that DRC cannot follow suit," he added.

"We count on the continued leadership of President Museveni and other regional leaders," the UN chief stated.

On Thursday, Ban toured the flashpoint Congolese city of Goma, where he said the deployment of the 3,000-strong "offensive" peacekeeping force would become fully operational "in a matter of weeks."

The UN force, which was approved by the Security Council in March, will have troops from Tanzania, Malawi, and South Africa.

Several armed groups, including the M23 rebels, are active in the east of the DRC and fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.

The M23 rebels seized Goma on November 20 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city of one million people. M23 fighters withdrew from the city on December 1 under a ceasefire accord.

The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese Army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.

Since early May 2012, nearly 3 million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

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