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Congo, Burundi key to peace in Great Lakes

DR of Congo, Burundi key to peace in Great Lakes - Security Council report

Having just wrapped up a special mission to Central Africa, the United Nations Security Council says it considers that the installation of the transitional government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the successful conclusion of a ceasefire in Burundi could clear the way for a possible international conference aimed at addressing long-term peace and security issues in the wider Great Lakes region.

In a report issued today, the Council recaps its 7 to 16 June, six-country tour - headed by Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France and including the Council's full 15-nation membership - of the region in which it sought to launch a "solid political process."

Following stops in the DRC - and neighbouring countries Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania - the mission judges that on the basis of agreements already reached, most of the work required to establish a transitional government in the DRC, with a unified army, has already been completed. The Council also notes the possibility of a declaration of good neighbourliness, which might subsequently be formalized into a treaty.

The report notes, however, that the Council had been disappointed by the slow pace of implementation efforts and believed that the steps that remain, particularly in light of persistent fighting and outbreaks of violence in the DRC, may prove to be the most difficult. While the mission still expects all the parties to agree on a functioning transition administration by 30 June, it was deeply concerned by the extremely volatile situation in much of the eastern portion of the DRC, but chiefly concentrated in Bunia and the Kivus.

While the Council members found Bunia "calm but tense" overall, they stress that the suffering population of the town and surrounding areas needs "as much assistance as the international community can provide." The mission also saw the clear need for demilitarization of Bunia and for all parties cease hostilities immediately to withdraw forces from the Kivus to previously held positions.

The Mission expresses its full support for political efforts underway in Burundi as the country heads into the second phase of its transition, as outlined in the 2000 Arusha Accords. "The Burundi peace process is at a critical juncture," the report says, "and every effort should be made to ensure its success." In meetings with the countries leadership, the Council members concentrated on a limited number of issues which required urgent attention, including, a cessation of hostilities, support for the African Union-led African Mission in Burundi (AMIB), mobilization of economic and financial assistance, and the fight against impunity.

While stressing that the outcome of the peace process is primarily the responsibility of the Burundian parties, the mission nevertheless believes that the international community should make every effort to provide assistance. It recommended that the wider Council call on donors to assist the AMIB with adequate financial and logistical assistance, and on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to provide appropriate expertise. The mission sees a clear need to provide adequate budgetary and economic assistance to support the transitional Government lest all the gains achieved so far collapse.

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