The head of the United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has condemned the spate of violence in the country's volatile northeast, which threatened to eclipse an historic meeting between rebel leaders and Government officials in the capital, Kinshasa.
While applauding recent efforts by all Congolese parties to push forward the nascent peace process - the reconciliation initiative underway in Ituri as well as the rebel leaders' arrival in Kinshasa - Amos Namanga Ngongi, head of the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), deplored the resumption of fighting in the east, during a wide-ranging interview for Kinshasa-based Radio Okapi yesterday.
"Fighting cannot be justified at this stage when everyone is seated at the same table to make peace," Mr. Ngongi said, echoing the words of Congolese Rally for Democracy-Goma (RCD-G) leader Azarias Ruberwa upon his arrival in Kinshasa on Sunday. "This is a message that should reach all those who are fighting on the ground."
Condemning the continued hostilities in the Ituri province, Mr. Ngongi encouraged all the parties to strive for peace and end the unnecessary loss of life in that part of the country. He also welcomed the ongoing withdrawal of Ugandan troops from the region.
As the peace process moves forward, Mr. Ngongi said in response to another question, the Security Council would have final say about MONUC's future role. He stressed that the Mission would play a definite role in the electoral process, reinforcement of human rights goals, as well as the country's disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programmes.
In other news, MONUC paid tribute yesterday to Maj. Viacheslav Budarin, a Military Observer from the Russian Federation killed last Saturday when his vehicle drove over an antitank mine in Komanda. Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Ngongi said the tragic incident underscored the risks taken by military observers in the field. He urged the mission's staff not to be discouraged and vowed that MONUC would carry on its demining tasks. "We hope that as peace evolves, soon enough, there will be no more fighting, and no more antitank of antipersonnel landmines," he added.