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UN extends peacekeeping force in Congo, tells factions in volatile east to lay down weapons

UN extends peacekeeping force in Congo, tells factions in volatile east to lay down weapons

The Security Council voted unanimously to extend the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo for a year and demanded that all militias and armed groups in the volatile east lay down their weapons and start disarming.
The council on Friday asked the U.N. force "to attach the highest priority to addressing the crisis" in North and South Kivu, the eastern Congo provinces that have seen the heaviest fighting recently, emphasizing the need to protect civilians.
It urged the Congolese government to address the crisis "in a comprehensive way," including convening a meeting on peace, security and development in the Kivus.
Fighting in eastern Congo has escalated dramatically since August, displacing more than 200,000 people. The region has been wracked by violence for years, despite the end of a 1998-2002 war that involved armies of more than half a dozen African nations and historic elections held last year, the first free vote in more than 40 years.
The Security Council demanded that all militias and armed groups in the east "lay down their arms and engage voluntarily and without any further delay or preconditions in their demobilization, repatriation, resettlement, and reintegration."
The council singled out insurgents loyal to Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda; the Interahamwe, an extremist Hutu militia; and fighters from the so-called Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, a Rwandan militia group whose commanders helped organize and participated in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
Congo's government has struggled with little success to establish authority over the lawless eastern regions of the country, thousands of kilometers from the capital, Kinshasa.
Though violence has persisted in eastern Congo, the 18,000-strong U.N. force _ the largest U.N. peacekeeping mission in the world _ has helped maintain security in the vast mineral-rich country since the end of the 1998-2002 war.
The resolution adopted by the council extends the mandate of the force until Dec. 31, 2008.
The council said the U.N. force must give priority to its mandate of protecting civilians but it also encouraged the force "within the limits of its capacity and in the areas where its units are deployed" to support the Congolese army in disarming "the recalcitrant foreign and Congolese armed groups."
In its previous resolution in May, the council called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to set out benchmarks and a timetable to gradually withdraw the U.N. force. In his report to the council last month, Ban set out a series of preconditions for the force's withdrawal including the disarming of Congolese and foreign armed groups, extending government authority throughout the country, reforming the security sector and ensuring human rights and the rule of law.
The council encouraged the U.N. force in Friday's resolution to focus its activities on helping the Congolese authorities to achieve the benchmarks.
It asked the U.N. force to review efforts to respond to sexual violence, "in view of the scale and severity of sexual violence committed especially by armed elements." It also urged Congolese authorities "to put an end to impunity" and "to intensify as a matter of urgency their efforts to reform the security sector, including the army, the police and the justice sector."


Updated : 2021-05-07 01:19 GMT+08:00