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US Condemns Massacre in DRC - 2003-04-08

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The United States is calling on all parties to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo to end hostilities and implement a peace plan for the country's troubled Ituri province. The appeal follows the reported massacre of nearly one thousand civilians in the area near the Ugandan border late week.

The United States is condemning the reported massacre, which added a sour note to the signing of an accord last week aimed at ending over four years of multilateral warfare in the central African country.

The United Nations has sent investigators to the scene in the Congo's northeastern Ituri province, where at least 20 mass graves are said to have been found containing the bodies of nearly a thousand people summarily executed last Thursday.

At a briefing here, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the United States has consistently spoken out against what he termed the "grave humanitarian tragedy" of violence in the Congo particularly in Ituri, where he said Uganda has a special responsibility because of its continued military presence.

"We condemn deliberate killing of civilians, and call on all parties to the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and implement the Ituri Pacification Committee, which is a regional commission to oversee resolution of the conflict in northeastern Congo," says Mr. Reeker. "Uganda, as the party responsible for security in that region, must insure that no human rights violations or atrocities are committed there, and that reports of any and all such activity are investigated immediately."

Spokesman Reeker said leaders of all factions in the region should be aware that they're responsible for insuring that those under their command comply with international humanitarian law, and have an obligation to hold accountable anyone under their authority who commits atrocities.

It is unclear who might have been behind the latest killings, but Ituri province has been a focus of fighting among ethnic and various government-backed forces.

The reported massacre came just a day after a multi-party peace accord was signed in Sun City, South Africa, last Wednesday aimed at ending the broader Congolese conflict.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila was sworn in Monday as head of a new transitional government that is to be in place pending democratic elections.

Spokesman Reeker called on Mr. Kabila to move as soon as possible on further steps to implement the Sun City accord.

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