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UN Aide Heads To Troubled DR Congo E. Region

Ban Ki-moon dispatches senior aide to DR Congo's troubled eastern region

Voicing concern about the ongoing crisis in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where tens of thousands of people have been displaced by recent fighting, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced that his senior aide will travel to the country for talks with top officials.

In a statement released by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban also cited the impact of the crisis on the region in announcing that Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios will leave this evening for a "special mission" to the region.

Mr. Menkerios previously served as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC.

"Mr. Menkerios will consult with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and other leaders in the region, as well as the DRC's bilateral and multilateral partners, to find ways to resolve the immediate crisis and to address its underlying causes," spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York.

"In carrying out his mission, Mr. Menkerios will coordinate closely with the Secretary-General's Special Representative for the DRC and with international partners currently engaged in initiatives to help resolve the crisis," she added.

Meanwhile in Kinshasa, a spokesman for the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) estimated that some 200 children are currently serving among the Congolese Army troops deployed to fight dissident soldiers in the North Kivu province.

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"Once more, MONUC recalls that the presence of children within all armed groups constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity," said Kemal Saiki, urging the Congolese military authorities to release the minors within their ranks and immediately stop their recruitment.

The Mission also praised the judicial and military leaders of the Bukavu region for their determined efforts to end the jailing of children by military jurisdictions.

While unable to quantify the number of underage detainees released in Bukavu following the adoption of this decision, the Mission cited it as an example which should be followed by other Congolese jurisdictions, in particular that of the North Kivu province where accused child soldiers are frequently jailed.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), for its part, has begun a vast anti-measles immunization campaign that will benefit some 33,000 children.


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