DR of Congo moves steadily towards elections in 2005 but challenges are formidable - UN

6 January 2005

While Rwanda's concerns about its genocidal citizens hiding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are understandable, Rwanda and the DRC's other neighbours are not promoting the conditions needed to bring peace to the country's troubled eastern region, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says.

In his 16th report to the UN Security Council on the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC), Mr. Annan adds that within the country human rights violations are deeply disturbing and reform of the security sector "remains daunting."

"The Rwandan armed-group presence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo is both a threat to the security of the Rwandan population in border areas and the local civilian Congolese population and a long-term irritant in relations between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. It also exacerbates the strained relations among various ethnic groups and armed elements in the Kivus," he says.

The eastern provinces are Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu.

Rwanda could only benefit from the DRC Government's extension of its authority throughout its territory, he says.

"In the spirit of reconciliation, I urge full cooperation between these Governments to ensure that peace is restored to the eastern Democratic of the Congo. I also call on Uganda to play a positive role in assisting the Transitional Government in extending its authority throughout Ituri."

From September to mid-December, "the MONUC Ituri Brigade sustained 40 incidents of direct fire from armed militias in various locations," it says.

Mr. Annan welcomes the addition of 5,900 peacekeepers to MONUC, but notes that the number is less than half of what would be required to ensure free and fair elections in 2005.

Meanwhile, installing transparent and legitimate local governments in many areas of the country "has been hindered by the lack of infrastructure, the irregular payment of salaries of civil servants and the illegal exploitation of natural resources," he writes.

The Transitional Government has not responded to a number of MONUC requests to conduct transparent and independent investigations into killings or human rights violations and, indeed, had failed even to condemn rights violations, Mr. Annan says.

No action has been taken against Thomas Lubanga of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), even though the group kidnapped a MONUC soldier and regularly issues death threats against UN peacekeepers.

The Government had not looked into the "indiscriminate killing" last October of more than 70 people by the national army, FARDC, as it took back the town of Kilwa, near the Zambian border, from the Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Katanga.

Though the military trial of nearly two dozen soldiers accused of crimes against humanity for their activities in 2002 in Ankoro, south of Lubumbashi, had re-opened, the Ministry for Human Rights "had been frustrated in its attempts" to seek justice for 100 women and children raped by a FADRC battalion in two villages of Equateur Province in December 2003.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, mandated under the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement, has not been fully constituted and most prisoners are denied food and medical attention.

In preparing for the elections, MONUC has organized seminars, workshops and training sessions on the human rights implications of sexual violence, justice administration and women's participation in the elections.

Despite the good work of thousands of UN employees in helping the Congolese restore peace to their country, eight out of 72 allegations of sexual exploitation by UN troops in Bunia last year have been corroborated. Most involve soliciting prostitutes, a violation of the UN peacekeepers' code of conduct, the report notes.

"I am afraid there is clear evidence that acts of gross misconduct have taken place. This is a shameful thing for the United Nations to have to say and I am outraged by it," Mr Annan says.


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