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Great Lakes region must unite to stamp out armed groups in DR Congo, urges UN envoy

The main road in Beni, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
IRIN/Jessica Hatcher
The main road in Beni, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Great Lakes region must unite to stamp out armed groups in DR Congo, urges UN envoy

Countries must come together to “neutralize all negative forces” terrorizing the population in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region urged today following meetings with top Rwandan officials to discuss recent peace and security developments in the region.

The call for united action comes a day after a massacre of civilians took place in the area of Beni town in the DRC’s restive northeast. Civilians in the village of Mayangose-Kibidiwe were attacked with machetes. At a separate attack in Kasu, in Eastern Province, several villagers were beheaded by people from outside, the UN Mission in that country (MONUSCO) confirmed.

"Countries in the region should remain united in efforts to neutralize all negative forces in eastern DRC and support military action against the FDLR," Special Envoy Said Djinnit said in a statement released from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, today.

The FDLR, or the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, is an armed group comprised of perpetrators of the 1994 Rwanda genocide who have a long history of heinous crimes in the DRC. They were given six months to voluntarily surrender, as set out by the joint International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting of Ministers of Defence on 2 July 2014.

That deadline expired on 2 January, at which time the UN Security Council urged that “all necessary measures” be taken to disarm the rebels.

During his visit to Rwanda, Special Envoy Djinnit met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo; Minister of Defense, James Kabarebe; as well as senior defence and security officials. He also met with the Chairman of the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (RDRC). During various meetings, Mr. Djinnit stressed the need to address the root causes of conflict including socio-economic and governance challenges.

He pledged UN’s support to help DRC Government take military action against the FDLR, which has caused ‘untold suffering to innocent people.’ Meanwhile, Rwanda’s Government must stay engaged on the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework, signed in Addis Ababa on 24 February 2013. The UN fully supports the repatriation process of the ex-M23 combatants involving DRC, Rwanda and Uganda, in line with the Nairobi Declarations, Mr. Djinnit said.

“I welcome the joint Communiqué signed on 3 February by representatives of the Governments of the DRC and Rwanda, in which they agreed on steps for the repatriation of the ex-M23 combatants and the handing-over of military equipment to the DRC as soon as possible,” the Special Envoy added.

He encouraged efforts towards convening the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (CEPGL) Summit that is expected to bring together the Heads of State of Burundi, DRC and Rwanda. Rwanda must continue to play its role, together with other regional countries, in the preparation of the Great Lakes Private Investment Conference planned for this year.

In a separate statement yesterday, the head MONUSCO, Martin Kobler, stressed that nothing will deter the UN mission from its purpose to neutralize all armed groups. Mr. Kobler, who is also the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the country, pledged UN support to the Congolese authorities to ensure that ‘everything is done’ to prosecute the perpetrators of atrocious killings.