Relations between Rwanda and DR Congo focus of Bans talks in Kigali

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“I expressed to President Kagame my satisfaction at the steps he has taken to open a new chapter in Rwanda-DRC relations,” Mr. Ban told reporters after his meeting, adding that he is “heartened” by the President’s intention to establish full diplomatic relations with DRC. In a move supported by the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUC), DRC and Rwanda launched a joint military offensive in January against the ethnic Hutu militia known as the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), which has caused havoc in the eastern part of DRC for years.Mr. Ban noted that the joint operation appears to have made progress. At the same time, he urged President Kagame “to ensure that these operations do not affect negatively the civilian population and humanitarian access to those in need.” Just a couple of weeks ago, MONUC reported that the FDLR is conducting a campaign of terror, systematically raping, murdering, looting and abducting civilians in an attempt to undermine the joint operation.Since then the mission has boosted its efforts to protect and reassure threatened populations, mostly in North Kivu province where some 250,000 civilians have been uprooted by fighting between Hutu groups, a mainly Tutsi militia known as the CNDP, the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and others since August.Mr. Ban had a chance to hear some of the concerns of the civilians uprooted by the fighting, when he met earlier in the day with a group of people living in the Kibati camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu. “Their first concern is security,” Mr. Ban noted during his visit to the camp. “Even though they want to return, they fear that when they do, they may be attacked by the FDLR. This must stop, and the United Nations, led by MONUC and the FARDC will provide the necessary security and safety to those returning to their homes.” Another concern is humanitarian assistance, and in this regard, the Secretary-General appealed for support from all quarters to enable the UN and others to provide the vital relief that the IDPs need. He also expressed his gratitude to the many aid agencies and their partners who are assisting those at the camp, which at the peak of the crisis sheltered more than 80,000 IDPs. It currently has some 20,000 residents.Mr. Ban noted that his visit to the camp, as well as yesterday’s meeting in Goma with victims of sexual violence, has “strengthened my resolve to work even harder for all those many people who need our support.” The Secretary-General raised the issue of sexual crimes in particular with Congolese President Joseph Kabila when the two met yesterday in Kisangani.“I called on him to take all necessary measures within his power to end such impunity and prevent sexual violence. Examples must be set. Codes of conduct must be enforced. I wish to repeat, violence against women is a crime. Organized rape is a crime against humanity. Those guilty of such crime must be brought to justice and punished,” Mr. Ban told reporters after visiting the Healing Africa clinic in Goma.In addition to DRC and Rwanda, the Secretary-General also visited South Africa and Tanzania on his current trip, which will take him next to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for an international conference on Gaza’s reconstruction. 1 March 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President Paul Kagame discussed the situation in the border region between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today during their meeting in Kigali, the current stop on the United Nations chief’s five-nation Africa trip.

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