Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed yesterday’s summit between the leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, the first official bilateral meeting since the neighbouring African nations broke off official ties more than one decade ago.
DRC President Joseph Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame met in the city of Goma, in eastern DRC, in their first direct talks since 1996.
“The Secretary-General commends both leaders’ commitment to promote peace and stability in the Great Lakes region,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.
He also praised the joint military offensive launched early this year against the “destabilizing and threatening presence” in eastern DRC of the notorious ethnic Hutu militia known as the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), which continues to perpetrate widespread killings and rapes of Congolese civilians.
In today’s statement, Mr. Ban said he is encouraged by the two presidents’ pledge to consolidate their relationship’s renewal through future meetings in the capitals of their respective countries.
“Security and development go hand in hand, and the Secretary-General hopes that the normalization of the relations between the DRC and Rwanda will contribute to the well-being of the people of both countries.”
Civilians are bearing the brunt of attempts to dismantle armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with the rebels carrying out vicious reprisals and some Government soldiers committing serious human rights abuses, the senior United Nations official to the country told the Security Council last month.
“We take these concerns very seriously and have addressed them with the Government at various levels,” said Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN mission in the DRC (MONUC).
He told the Council of the deployment of more MONUC resources and personnel to the affected provinces, such as North Kivu, continuing efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence, and increased pressure on the Government to take action against undisciplined soldiers.
MONUC has set up nearly three dozen military bases in the embattled North Kivu province, many in remote areas where operations are ongoing against the FDLR. “These bases have allowed for close monitoring of the operations and rapid intervention in a number of instances.”
But Mr. Doss warned that the Mission’s resources are being stretched thin as it waits for reinforcements to arrive following the Security Council’s recent authorization of additional troops to deal with the strife in the DRC’s east.
The FDLR has been retaliating against civilians and attacking villages in North Kivu, committing rape and other human rights abuses which have forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, according to reports from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The group has been operating in eastern DRC since the end of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that left around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead.