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Peace Efforts In E. DR Congo Must Be Hastened

Efforts to bring peace to eastern DR Congo must be hastened - UN report

9 July 2008 - Steps towards bringing peace to the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and bolstering lawful Government bodies must gather speed, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in his latest report on the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country, known as MONUC.

"The resolution of the crisis in the Kivus and the development of legitimate Government institutions are critical benchmarks for the gradual MONUC drawdown," Mr. Ban said. "The steady, albeit slow, progress unfolding in this regard is encouraging but should be accelerated."

He noted that both the National and Provincial Assemblies are operating despite contending with a "serious" deficiency of resources and capacity, and urged national authorities to ensure that provincial and local polls are held in a timely manner.

Regarding the volatile eastern region, the report said that the success of the Goma Agreement, signed by the Government and various armed groups, and the Nairobi process, under which DRC and Rwanda have agreed to work together against threats to peace and stability in the region, depends on "the sustained political engagement of all parties."

The Secretary-General called on the parties to utilize the Amani Programme - the mixed technical commission on peace and security in the Kivus - to build confidence among themselves and to tackle the issue of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

He cautioned that the lack of progress on key issues as well as recent stepped-up tensions threaten to derail the Goma process.

"While the ceasefire has largely held, recent clashes are a growing source of concern, along with the continued recruitment by armed groups," the report, which covers the period between 25 March and 20 June 2008, said. "The next steps will be critical."

To boost security, stability and legitimate State authority in the east, Mr. Ban advocated the establishment of a professional, capable and accountable national armed forces, known as FARDC.

He also expressed concern over the risks to regional security posed by the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which he said has restarted its abductions and attacks on civilians along the DRC/southern Sudan/Central African Republic (CAR) border.

"The door should remain open for a political solution and I urge LRA to sign the final peace agreement without any further delay," Mr. Ban wrote. LRA leader Joseph Kony has failed to sign a comprehensive peace deal with Uganda that was mediated by the Government of Southern Sudan that his representatives had earlier initialled.

While MONUC will continue to work with the DRC to protect civilians, he warned that the mission is "severely overstretched and faces growing demands with regard to support for the Nairobi and Goma processes," thus requiring enhanced capacity to increase its support to FARDC.

As of 31 May, MONUC comprises over 18,000 uniformed personnel, including more than 16,000 troops, nearly 700 military observers and 1,000 police.

ENDS

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