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UN Security Council urges rebel group in Congo to disarm

UN Security Council urges rebel group in Congo to disarm

The U.N. Security Council on Saturday praised the Congolese president's vision for the country's future and urged a key rebel group to disarm and talk to the president in order to bring peace to the war-ravaged region.
During an hour-long meeting with Joseph Kabila at the president's palace, Congo's leader told council members that the military situation in the east is already improving, France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said.
"Our feeling _ and the feeling of the president _ was that it was improving because every day you have some militias who are surrendering. So, the process is giving good signs, and the improvement of the relationship with both Uganda and Rwanda certainly will help," Ripert said.
The ambassador, who is leading the council visit to Congo, said Kabila is putting all his weight behind a Security Council resolution that specifically calls on the FDLR to disarm.
The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR, is an extremist Hutu militia accused of orchestrating the 1994 genocide of 500,000 Tutsis in Rwanda. The militia fled to the forested hills of eastern Congo after being chased out of neighboring Rwanda and has set up bases in the remote jungle.
The militia is accused of razing villages and terrorizing the local population. Its continued presence in eastern Congo has given rise to countermilitias, like the brutal forces of Laurent Nkunda, an ethnic Tutsi warlord whose popularity is derived from his claim of protecting villagers from the FDLR.
The two armed groups and several other smaller militias are at war now over the forested area, a conflict that has caused a mass exodus of villagers from their homes.
The Security Council is often highly critical of governments and individuals, and it is rare for its members to talk about a leader having "vision."
"I was struck by the fact that he certainly is a politician who has a vision for his country," Ripert said. "His vision is a vision of improving the security and the first step in the short-term (is) to get the rebel groups to disarm, to get the rebel groups to leave the country. They don't belong to the country."
Ripert added that Kabila has agreed to talk to the FDLR, a crucial first step.
The U.N. Security Council, he said, is urging the FDLR to disarm and to respond to the demand of the Security Council, as well as to talk to Kabila.
South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said he was "amazed" at the change in just one year in the way Congo's leadership, from the president to parliament, was addressing problems.
"It finally seems the people of Congo are finding their way out of the past," Kumalo said. "There's light now at the end of the tunnel."
Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers called the meeting with Kabila "very encouraging."
"He set out the immediate priorities for the Congo of stabilizing the east and proceeding with the local elections in 2009, and the perspective of the United Nations transitioning from a role based on stabilizing and helping the government provide for security in the country to one where the focus of the U.N. is on development," Sawers said. "That is exactly the perspective that we share."
The council arrived in Kinshasa Saturday morning, the seventh day of a cross-continent trip to African hotspots. Representatives of the U.N.'s most powerful body immediately went into a round of meetings with senior Congolese officials, including the president and prime minister.
Last year, Congo installed its first democratically elected president in more than 40 years, prompting many to think the country had turned a new leaf. But Kabila has struggled to assert control over the Europe-sized country, especially its remote east where rebel armies are still entrenched.
The country's history of armed struggle has also left deep rifts in the capital, Kinshasa.
Former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba came in second during last year's historic election and for days he refused to admit defeat. He was later elected to the senate, but riled the country's leadership by refusing to dismantle his personal militia of several hundred men.
A clash between his men and government forces forced him to flee to Portugal, where he was recently arrested on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court.
During the closed-door session, Kabila praised the work of the ICC, which has indicted several rebel leaders in addition to Bemba.
An official who attended the session quoted Kabila as saying of the ICC's arrests and indictments: "It's a very good thing." He spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed.


Updated : 2021-04-17 18:47 GMT+08:00