African leaders pledge non-interference at DR of Congo talks called by Annan

25 September 2003

Representatives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and three neighbouring countries today agreed to refrain from interference in each other's affairs, and to prevent arms shipments to warring groups in the eastern areas of the country following a meeting called by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

According to a communiqué issued after the high-level ad hoc meeting, the DRC, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda pledged to "respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of one another" and "refrain from interfering directly or indirectly in one another's internal affairs."

The countries also promised to "refrain from any action aimed at the partial or total disruption of the stability, national unity and territorial integrity of one another," as well as "prevent, in this regard, the direct or indirect support of arms and support to armed groups operating in the eastern part of the DRC."

The statement was agreed to by the Presidents of Burundi and the DRC, the Prime Minister of Rwanda, and the Second Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda, in the presence of the President of Mozambique, the current Chairperson of the African Union, and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Angola, South Africa and Tanzania.

A spokesman for Mr. Annan said, "The Secretary-General is gratified at the successful conclusion of the high-level meeting."

In the text of his remarks to the closed-door meeting issued earlier Thursday, the Secretary-General lauded progress in the DRC, but warned more had to be accomplished.

Citing the "substantial progress that has been made in the past year," including the signing of peace agreements between warring parties, and the establishment of a transitional government in Kinshasa, Mr. Annan said: "Much has been achieved. But the job is not done. It is not even close to done. Enormous challenges lie ahead."

Mr. Annan said: "In meeting those challenges, I hope you will be guided by certain common principles. There should be no overt or covert interference in each other's affairs. All States in the region must respect one another's sovereignty. All support for armed groups must end. There must be no illegal exploitation of the natural resources of the DRC. Transparent, good-neighbourly relations must be established. There must be respect for civilians and for the human rights of all citizens."

The Secretary-General stressed that the UN team in the area, and the new transitional government need the support and backing of all the countries represented in the meeting. "Real peace also requires all outsiders to cut off support to armed groups and terminate the flow of weapons," he added.

"It is far too early to declare success," he said. "A lot more needs to happen before lasting peace is secured."


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