UN envoy hails trilateral Great Lakes meeting in Washington

12 May 2004

On the eve of a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda in Washington, D.C., the United Nations special representative in the DRC said today he hoped the talks would lead to the normalization of relations among Central African countries.

The chief of the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), William Lacy Swing, recalled that principles of normalization between neighbouring countries were part of the declaration drawn up last September in New York, MONUC spokesman Hamadoun Touré told journalists in Kinshasa, the DRC capital.

An inquiry panel would arrive Friday in Bunia in the eastern region of the DRC to probe sexual abuse allegations against MONUC personnel in the capital of Ituri province, he added.

Meanwhile, MONUC's human rights director, Luc Henkinbrant, released a 2002-2003 report on the DRC's prisons, saying "90 per cent of the prisons are in a terrible state. The infrastructure is broken down, or in ruins."

Promiscuity, malnutrition, lack of hygiene and health care in the prisons make conditions so bad, he said, that "a sentence under the law of five to 10 years constitutes, in fact, a death sentence."


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