15 April 2008 The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has made solid progress in trying to stabilize the volatile east of the country, but the continued presence of armed rebels and militias means the region will remain the overwhelming focus of its operations for some time, its chief told reporters today.
Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the DRC and the head of the mission, known as MONUC, said as much as 90 to 92 per cent of the total number of blue helmets are deployed across the east of the vast country, which is trying to rebuild after years of misrule and civil war.
Nearly two out of every three MONUC peacekeepers are based in either of two provinces, North Kivu and South Kivu, where the fighting and violence has been the worst in recent years but two recent accords were signed.
Mr. Doss – who briefed the Security Council earlier today on the latest mission report – said the mission was making relative progress in restoring State authority to areas formerly controlled by rebels or other irregular armed groups, especially in the Ituri district of North Kivu.
A large proportion of the DRC, which is as big as Western Europe, remains at peace, he said, although they are still burdened by enormous challenges, such as human rights violations, high infant and maternal mortality, and what he described as an epidemic of sexual violence.
“This is a problem of immense dimensions,” he stressed, noting the lack of a meaningful criminal justice system in many parts of the country and the widespread culture of impunity, including for members of the Congolese national security and defence forces who commit such violations.
He said the presence of the notorious rebel group from northern Uganda, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), in the borderlands area was another concern, as no one knew of their intentions in the DRC.
Mr. Doss said it was also important to remain vigilant about the threats posed in the east by such armed groups as the Rwandan Interahamwe and the Forces Démocratiques de la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR).
MONUC is consulting with both the Rwandan and the Congolese Governments to try to persuade the groups to disarm and repatriate, he added, saying it was vital for the countries of the region to work together, particularly given the porous nature of the borders.
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