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UN Backs Neutral Force for Great Lakes, Says Peacekeeping Chief

  • Nick Long

Displaced families walk past M23 rebels at Rumangabo, after government troops abandoned the town 23 km (14 miles) north of the eastern Congolese city of Goma, July 28, 2012.

Displaced families walk past M23 rebels at Rumangabo, after government troops abandoned the town 23 km (14 miles) north of the eastern Congolese city of Goma, July 28, 2012.

The head of United Nations peacekeeping operations says the U.N. is ready to help with the deployment of an neutral military force along the border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. The DRC has accused Rwanda of supporting the rebel group M23 in North Kivu province, a charge Rwanda denies.

The idea of deploying a neutral international force along the border between Rwanda and DRC was adopted by Great Lakes countries at an African Union summit in July.

Now the U.N. Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Hervé Ladsous, who’s on a visit to the DRC, has announced that the organization backs the proposal and wants to help make it a reality.

Speaking to the media in Goma on Tuesday, he said two things need to happen: an end to the hostilities and atrocities in North Kivu, and the DRC’s sovereignty has to be respected.

He said several ideas had been discussed and adopted at a summit meeting in Kampala last week, and with a mini-summit of leaders from the region planned in New York at the end of the month, those ideas should now be put into action. In particular, he said, the idea of a neutral international force should be made operational, and the U.N. would be working on that with all its partners.

Eastern Congo’s North Kivu province has seen a widespread upsurge in violence since May when mutinying soldiers of the Congolese army declared a rebellion, which they are calling the M23 movement.

The peacekeeping chief was asked if the Congolese government should negotiate with M23.

He said that was for the government to decide but he added that some of those involved were liable to face international justice.

The government has said it will not negotiate with M23.

Ladsous stressed his willingness to work with the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region or ICGLR, the inter-governmental body representing twelve countries which is calling for help to deploy a neutral border force.

He said he had met with the executive secretary of the ICGLR on Sunday and they had had an extremely positive and extremely frank discussion, from which it followed they must work together. He said that he would designate experts to help the ICGLR make its plan operational.

Ladsous added that the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, has been doing an incredible job. He said the question of enlarging MONUSCO is for the U.N. Security Council to decide but the U.N. will have briefings and consultations and will see where the idea can go.
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