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UN Applauds Improving Congo-Rwanda Ties


Ambassadors from the U.N. Security Council are in Kinshasa for talks with President Joseph Kabila's government about improving relations with Rwanda and stopping violence against women.

Security Council ambassadors met with representatives of more than 13,000 internally displaced Congolese in the eastern city of Goma where they also visited a clinic caring for victims of sexual violence.

The French Ambassador to the Security Council, Jean-Maurice Ripert, says the delegation is asking President Kabila to take decisive measures against the plague of sexual violence, some of which has been committed by former rebels reintegrated into Congo's national army. "Time was not enough. It was difficult by the procedures to screen properly all the people who joined today the army. We know there are some cases of known rapists in the ranks of the army," he said.

He says the delegation gave government ministers names of people the United Nations believes should be arrested. "We have got commitments from the authorities of this country that they would arrest these people and prosecute them. So we are encouraged by the posture of the government of this country, and we hope that once and for all the whole society of Congo will take over this problem and fight," he said.

While in Goma, the ambassadors were briefed by U.N. military commanders and Congolese officials on U.N.-backed operations by the Congolese army to combat both foreign and domestic illegally-armed groups.

Earlier this year, Rwandan and Congolese troops fought together against ethnic Hutu militia, some of whom took part in Rwanda's genocide 15 years ago. Those groups have destabilized Congo's Kivu regions by periodically launching cross-border raids into Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.

Stopping those attacks and protecting ethnic Tutsi in Kivu were the biggest reasons Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi gave for backing two rebellions in Congo, the first of which toppled long-time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and put President Kabila's father Laurent in power.

Ambassador Ripert says President Kabila has succeeded in improving relations with Rwanda in pursuit of the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR. "There has been an agreement which has allowed the two governments of Rwanda and the Congo to fight together against the FDLR. Some other groups have joined the process of reintegration," he said.

Ripert says it is up to Rwanda and Congo, not the Security Council, to decide how fighters meet conditions to join the reintegration process. But he told reporters in Kinshasa that there are clear actions they can take to show they are serious about peace.

"We can expect if they are ready to negotiate and dialogue, I think the first thing they could do would be to stop the violence, stop the killings, stop the rapings, stop the lootings, and surrender and give back their arms," he said.

The Security Council delegation is also discussing economic recovery and development in Congo.

This four-nation Africa trip began in Ethiopia with stops in Rwanda and Congo before ending in Liberia.

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