DR Congo: UN helps secure release of abducted election officials

DR Congo: UN helps secure release of abducted election officials

United Nations peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have helped free four election officials who were abducted in the eastern North Kivu province almost two weeks ago, a spokesman for the world body said today.

The four officials were found unharmed as soldiers of the DRC national army mopped up after operations against two camps of the Mayi-Mayi militia, during which 32 militia members were killed, the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) said.

The operations took place in the Vurondo area, near the town of Butembo, which is 200 kilometres north of Goma, the provincial capital.

The DRC's national army is to maintain a presence in the cleared areas, according to MONUC.

Meanwhile, the Security Council Committee on sanctions against DRC released a list of several individuals and one organization that are subject to a freeze on their assets and a travel ban. MONUC's Radio Okapi identified them as two Rwandans, one of whom lives in Germany, certain former DRC militia leaders and a non-governmental organization (NGO).

All are accused of importing weapons into DRC in violation of the UN Security Council's embargo.

In another development, Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France briefed reporters in New York today on the upcoming Security Council mission he will lead to five countries in Central Africa.

The 4 to 11 November trip will feature working meetings with UN envoys in the countries concerned, he said.

Council members will also confer with Ibrahima Fall, SRSG for the Great Lakes Region, about his progress on organizing the proposed umbrella Conference on the Great Lakes, which the Council strongly supports.

In that regard, Mr. de La Sablière said, good neighbourly relationships in the region were essential for security, politics and the economy, particularly because of the external interference in certain countries and because the problems in one country have been spilling over into the next.

The mission is scheduled to go first to the DRC. There it will meet with the SRSG, the President, Vice-President and the National Assembly President, as well as NGO representatives and the Independent Electoral Committee (IEC). The Council will emphasize that elections must be held by 30 June, as scheduled.

In that regard, electoral laws must be adopted right away, a constitutional referendum must be held in December and the demobilization and community reintegration of ex-combatants must be accelerated, the Ambassador said.

The mission will arrive on the evening of 7 November in Bujumbura, Burundi, to meet with the senior UN envoy, the President and party leaders and to assess justice, reconciliation and the post-election situation, Mr. de La Sablière said. With its recent elections and other positive developments, Burundi illustrated success and the UN would continue to work with it, he added.

From 9 November, the Council would visit Uganda, Rwanda and then Tanzania, meeting with the political leadership of each, he said.

In Entebbe, Uganda, Council members would speak with the President about supporting Council initiatives in neighbouring DRC, such as the arms embargo, and about various approaches to ending the humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda, Mr. de La Sablière said. They would also consider the proposed amnesty law for some of the rank-and-file of the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA).

In Rwanda, the Council would assess the situation in the Kivu Provinces of the DRC, including returning foreign armed groups home from there, he said.

At its last stop, Mr. de La Sablière said, the Council would pay tribute to Tanzania's efforts in furthering the stability of the region and confer with its leadership about consolidating peace.