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Extra Blue Helmets Will Bring Peace To DR Congo

Extra Blue Helmets Will Aid Political Efforts To Bring Peace To DR Congo – UN

New York, Nov 26 2008 6:10PM

The additional blue helmets that will be deployed to help quell the violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will create space for political and diplomatic peace efforts to press ahead, the top United Nations envoy to the vast African nation said today as he stressed the fragility of the situation.

Last week, the Security Council approved a temporary increase of more than 3,000 troops to augment the 17,000 uniformed personnel already serving with the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC .

Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the mission, told reporters today after briefing the Council today that discussions are already under way with potential troop and police-contributing nations.

“Above all, we want to stabilize the situation in order that the political and diplomatic processes can go forward,” he said. “I don’t think the solution to the problems of the Congo and the eastern DRC lie exclusively in military force.”

Former Nigerian president and the Secretary-General’s envoy Olusegun Obasanjo has wrapped up his first phase of talks with regional leaders, including DRC President Joseph Kabila and renegade general Laurent Nkunda, who heads the rebel militia known as the Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP).

Mr. Obasanjo, in New York this week to consult with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will return to the region on Friday to resume his diplomatic efforts, which will also address the ongoing problem of the presence of Rwandan armed groups.

But Mr. Doss warned the Council in today’s open meeting that it will take “a couple of months” before the extra forces authorized by the 15-member body are on the ground, and reiterated his call for a multinational force as a “bridging measure” until MONUC is reinforced.

“We should also be mindful that MONUC’s presence should not replace the national authority and security forces in their responsibility to protect civilians and protect the territory of the DRC,” the Representative added.

Escalating conflict between Government forces (FARDC) and the CNDP has uprooted an estimated 250,000 people in the past three months, mainly in North Kivu province, which borders Rwanda. Other armed groups, including the Mayi Mayi, have also been involved in deadly clashes, some of which have been along ethnic lines.

The escalating violence has had a “profound impact” on MONUC, Mr. Doss noted, adding that the “already overstretched” mission has had to assume responsibility for the protection of civilians in North Kivu and aid in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

He briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUC, which recommends extending its mandate until next December.

In a related development, the mission today reported that humanitarian access to internally displaced persons (IDPs) has improved, with relief workers having reached nearly 100,000 people in Kiwanja and Rutshuru in the past two weeks. They have also been able to distribute school kits to children, drinking water and firewood.

But aid workers expressed their concerns over the recurrent emergence of cholera, with 1,000 cases having been reported since last October.

Meanwhile, a 16-day campaign backed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has kicked off to raise awareness of how to tackled gender-based violence in the DRC.

The initiative will wrap up on 10 December and will feature various countrywide events as well as a sensitization drive.

ENDS

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