UN Security Council warns against belligerence in eastern DR of Congo

Amb. Lauro Baja, Council President

22 June 2004 – Condemning "in the strongest terms" any outside involvement in the volatile situation in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations Security Council today urged Secretary-General Kofi Annan to determine whether the UN mission there needs "a possible rapid reaction capability."

In a Presidential statement adopted this evening following closed-door consultations, the Council also warned all parties against any attempt at fighting one another or violating the embargo against financial or military assistance imposed on the eastern DRC.

An estimated 31,000 Congolese have fled to Burundi since an insurgency, led by dissident Gen. Laurent Nkunda and Col. Jules Mutebusi, erupted in late May. The rebels briefly held the town of Bukavu in early June. Another 3,000 refugees escaped to Rwanda, but that country largely closed its borders.

The refugees feared they would be caught in fighting between Congolese government troops and the ethnic-Banyamulenge (Congolese Tutsi) rebels, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said.

The statement, read out by the Council president for June, Ambassador Lauro L. Baja Jr. of the Philippines, called on the DRC's Transitional Government and the Government of Rwanda to respond immediately to efforts by the UN mission (MONUC) to establish "a joint verification mechanism for their common security, including verification of cross-border movements," he said.

The Security Council urged Rwanda not to provide any practical or political support to armed groups in the DRC, particularly those led by Gen. Nkunda and Col. Mutebusi, and it strongly encouraged the leaders of DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi "to work together to reduce tensions and restore confidence in the region."

The Council also reminded Uganda not to provide military support for armed Congolese groups and called on Burundi to prevent support going from its territory to armed groups in neighbouring DRC.

The DRC Government of National Unity and Transition should "reverse the current climate of impunity" by investigating the human rights abuses and deaths of innocent civilians and holding the perpetrators to account, Mr. Baja said.

Meanwhile, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said mutineer Col. Mutebusi's forces fired on a MONUC military patrol last Sunday in Kamanyola, near Bukavu.

"A UN helicopter was called in and warning shots were fired at the rebel forces, who then dispersed. No casualties were reported," he said in New York.

The action was within MONUC s mandate under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, which authorizes the use of force.

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