DR Congo killings 'constitute war crimes', says UN official

Displaced people on the grounds of a school in the Rutshuru area, North Kivu province

8 November 2008 – The recent killing of civilians by armed militia in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) “constitute war crimes”, the top United Nations official to the country said today, while welcoming the outcome of yesterday's high-level meeting, aimed at ending the crisis.

Violent clashes between renegade-general Laurent Nkunda's CNDP rebels and pro-government PARECO/Mayi Mayi militia that broke out on Tuesday in the town of Kiwanja, in North Kivu, were condemned by the Secretary-General's Special Representative in the DRC, Alan Doss, as “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

Mr. Doss, who is also head of the UN mission in the DRC (MONUC), called for all armed groups to withdraw from the area around Rutshuru, the scene of this week's violent outbreak, to allow MONUC to protect people in the area and enable the safe return of thousands who fled the fighting.

The clashes earlier this week continue the escalation of hostilities in North Kivu province over the last two months between Government forces (FARDC) and the CNDP headed by Mr. Nkunda, which has displaced some 252,000 Congolese, on top of the 800,000 already forced from their homes from previous fighting.

Mr. Doss applauded the statement from the UN-backed summit of African leaders in Nairobi yesterday, which urged for an immediate ceasefire in eastern DRC, and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to ensure that the hundreds of thousands displaced can get the assistance they need.

“An immediate response can be made to the humanitarian crisis and the immediate implementation of the Joint Nairobi and Goma agreements,” Mr. Doss told reporters while stopping off in Goma on his return from the Nairobi meeting.

The Nairobi communiqué is the November 2007 agreement under which the DRC and Rwanda have agreed to work together against threats to peace and stability in the region. The Goma agreement, signed by the Government and armed groups in January, included a commitment by rebels to withdraw their troops to either disarm or join the brassage process, whereby ex-combatants from armed groups are retrained to form part of FARDC.

“The Summit also established a facilitation mechanism which will involve, in addition to the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes [Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria], all heads of State of the region,” Mr. Doss added.


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