UN envoy to war-torn eastern DR Congo wraps up latest round of talks

1 December 2008

The United Nations envoy tasked with helping to resolve the conflict behind the recent fighting that has engulfed the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has completed his second round of consultations with leaders in the African Great Lakes region.

Olusegun Obasanjo, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the eastern DRC held talks – along with his co-facilitator, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa – starting late last week with President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo, DRC President Joseph Kabila and the country’s Foreign Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba.

On Saturday, the facilitators also held talks with renegade general Laurent Nkunda, who heads the rebel militia known as the National Congress in Defense of the People (CNDP) that has been fighting Congolese armed forces (FARDC) in North Kivu province.

“The Special Envoy intends to remain closely engaged with the principals and other actors in the region,” UN spokesperson Marie Okabe said today, adding that he is looking ahead to a second summit of the region’s leaders tentatively scheduled for next month.

Escalating conflict between the FARDC and the CNDP has uprooted an estimated 250,000 people in the past three months, mainly in North Kivu, which borders Rwanda. Other armed groups, including the Mayi Mayi, have also been involved in deadly clashes, some of which have been along ethnic lines.

Last month, during his first round of consultations, Mr. Obasanjo held talks with Mr. Kabila, Mr. Nkunda and other regional leaders.

“All of them support the effort we are making now, but they also underlined the need to maintain the momentum,” he told reporters in New York last week, characterizing the first round of diplomatic efforts as “fairly good.”

In a related development, the Geneva-based Human Rights Council today adopted a resolution condemning the violence, human rights violations and abuses taking place in North Kivu.

The resolution was adopted by consensus, which came at the end of a special session on the human rights situation in the eastern DRC and noted the sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers by militias.

It also urged the international community to address the root causes of the conflict and to continue helping the Government promote peace and stability.

In her address at the start of the session last week, Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that outbreaks of bloodshed will continue to occur in the area unless impunity is ended for those guilty of the worst violations.

“The DRC runs the risk of becoming a case study in how peace processes can go awry without the will to make justice and accountability an integral part of these processes,” she said.

“The prevailing culture of impunity contributes to this wide range of serious human rights violations,” Ms. Pillay told the 47-member body, adding that “unparalleled violence” against women continues, with rape being a particular concern.

Meanwhile, the Council’s Working Group for the Universal Periodic Review, a mechanism to examine the record of all 192 Member States created by the General Assembly in 2006, began its third session in Geneva today. The Group assessed the fulfilment of rights obligations by Botswana and the Bahamas.

 

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Justice essential to breaking cycle of conflict in DR Congo, UN rights chief says

Outbreaks of bloodshed will continue to occur in the far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where in the past few months escalating conflict has uprooted a quarter of a million people, unless impunity is ended for those guilty of the worst violations, the top United Nations human rights official said today in Geneva.