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UN Official Voices Disappointment About Human Rights Situation in DRC


A top United Nations official says that while the political and military situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo have improved, serious problems remain concerning human rights and humanitarian aid.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi noted that agreement has been reached on the so-called "inter-Congolese dialogue." A 45 day meeting is scheduled to begin in mid-October. The dialogue, which is being led by former Botswana President Ketumile Masire, is intended to create conditions that replace armed conflict with political competition.

Mr. Annabi said the ceasefire in Congo has generally held up and that Namibia and Uganda continue to withdraw their forces. Despite some areas of fighting, the U.N. official said there is a widespread impression that the war in the DRC is now over.

However, Mr. Annabi said serious human rights problems remain with abuses by both the Congolese government and rebel groups. In addition, he said the humanitarian situation in the DRC is quite bad. Poor security conditions, the U.N. official observed, mean that relief workers now have access to less than half of the estimated two-million internally displaced people."In areas where humanitarian agencies have gained access, such as northern Katanga, the population was found to be a very bad state, raising concerns over the conditions in the areas currently beyond the reach of the humanitarian community," he said.

Mr. Annabi said the U.N. mission in Congo has launched several so-called "quick impact projects" to repair hospitals, restore electricity and purify drinking water.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will visit beginning Saturday the DRC and Rwanda and is expected to make recommendations to the security council on expanding the U.N. role in Congo's peace process.

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