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DR of Congo-Uganda summit "great step" in right direction, UN envoy says

DR of Congo-Uganda summit "great step" in right direction, UN envoy says

The United Nations envoy for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has welcomed a summit meeting between the leaders of the DRC and Uganda, expressing hope that their discussions would spur implementation of the Lusaka peace agreement.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for the DRC, Kamel Morjane, called the meeting between Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni "a great step in the right direction."

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mr. Morjane expressed hope that the summit "will permit a thaw in relations between the two countries and will ease the acceleration of the implementation of the Lusaka Accord in bringing together the DRC and Uganda to the great benefit of the two peoples."

Meanwhile, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) today announced that it had taken a "major step" towards reuniting a group of 159 Congolese children with their families in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On Wednesday, UNICEF airlifted 34 children from that group from Uganda to Bunia in the DRC.

The 159 children have been under the interim care and protection of UNICEF since February, when they were handed over by the Ugandan Government. Over the past five months, UNICEF and its partners have been providing the children with schooling, psychosocial counselling and vocational training while simultaneously tracing their families and preparing the ground for a return home.

The UNICEF Representative in Uganda, Michel Sidibe, emphasized today that the families of all 34 children had been traced and were now waiting for the reunion. "In a place that has witnessed so much conflict, we hope that the peaceful return of the children will contribute to healing wounds," he said.

The UNICEF Representative in the DRC, Martin Mogwanja, called the repatriation "a victory for children's rights" in a region scarred by conflict since 1998. "We must all work to ensure that peace prevails in this region so that the future of these children and millions of others is never again compromised," he stressed.