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EU heads express 'indignation' over Kinshasa violence

MONUC | Published on March 27, 2007

EU Ambassadors in Kinshasa

At a press conference in Kinshasa this Tuesday March 27 2007, the representatives of the European Union countries to the DRC expressed their ‘indignation’ at the recourse to the violent armed Kinshasa conflict of March 22 to 25 2007, ‘when all routes to dialogue were not yet exhausted.’ German ambassador Karl Albrecht Wokalek said the death toll ‘could reach 600.’

In a statement, they deplored the loss of life, in particular that of civilians, as the Congolese Armed Forces - the FARDC - took to the streets of Kinshasa against ex vice president J.P. Bemba’s guards in the two day conflict that paralysed the DRC capital, causing much destruction and loss of life.

Furthermore, the European Union (EU) heads ‘condemned the numerous cases of looting and rape committed by troops from both camps’ during the conflict.

In the political sphere, the EU ambassadors stressed the importance for the authorities to ‘ensure the existence of a democratic space, in order to guarantee free expression to all political opinions.’

UK ambassador Andy Sparkes said that they were there to show their ‘solidarity with the Congolese people,’ who had ‘suffered much’ from the conflict.

“There remains a war spirit in the country, which is a bit like malaria. We thought we had healed the country with a big dose of quinine, with the holding of free and transparent elections last year, but this war spirit has returned.”

There remains a war spirit in this country, which is a bit like malaria

For the ‘well being of the Congolese people,’ he stressed that it was necessary to eradicate this ‘war spirit’.

“I find this recourse to violence irresponsible, it shows that this war spirit remains, and it needs to be replaced by a spirit of reconciliation and inclusiveness. This is the only way forward for stability in the country.”

The ‘BIAC’ bank building on Kinshasa’s main boulevard, which houses the Greek and Spanish embassies, as well as UNICEF offices, was directly hit by mortar and light arms fire during the violence. The Italian ambassador's Kinshasa residence was also looted. 

On this subject, the ambassadors were forthright in their views.

Greek ambassador Ioannis Christofilis deplored what he termed was a ‘direct attack which broke the Vienna convention’ on diplomatic relations.

“This was a direct attack, with heavy arms, not only on the Greek flag and embassy, but the Spanish embassy, as well as UNICEF, who work here for your (Congolese) children, and the BIAC bank, who are working here for the economic development of this country.”

He added that the DRC government had expressed its regret, and has promised a full enquiry into the events.

Mr. Christofilis went on to say that images of the attack on the Greek and Spanish embassies were aired around the world, and had affected the image of the DRC.
The real vicitms of this situation are the congolese people

“I received more than 40 telephone calls from Greek TV and radio stations. How do you now expect me to persuade donors and investors to come here? The last victims of this situation are the Congolese people.”

Spanish ambassador Jose Martinez added that it was ‘difficult to understand why the BIAC bank building was targeted,’ but he said ‘it was clear that it was not a random attack.’

Italian ambassador Leonardo Baroncelli said that the events were ‘regrettable’. He explained that, in his absence, uniformed men broke into his residence by force on the afternoon of Friday March 23, stealing some property and causing minor damage.

“The issue is that this act constitutes a grave violation of the spirit of the Vienna convention. Article 22 of the convention states that all diplomatic premises shall be inviolable, and that the state is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage, and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission, or the impairment of its dignity,” he said.
The democratic process is not dead, but is seriously wounded

In the political sphere, the EU ambassadors concluded by saying that ‘the democratic process is not dead, but is seriously wounded’ by the latest Kinshasa violence.

“There needs to be a new spirit of reconciliation with a real engagement of the authorities for democratic opposition, where the liberty of expression is reaffirmed in the country. Violence needs to be denounced so that dialogue can continue,” said UK ambassador Andy Sparkes.

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