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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

DRC: Voluntary disarmament of militias under discussion

KAMPALA, 11 August 2003 (IRIN) - The new transitional government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the UN Mission in the country, know as MONUC, are discussing a programme to disarm various groups and militias in the northeastern district of Ituri, the special representative of the UN Secretary-general, William Swing, said on Monday.

"The issue of disarmament is being seriously considered by MONUC under two programmes aimed at stabilising Ituri," he told reporters at a news conference in Kampala. "This is both under a programme we have for disarming and repatriating foreign troops and under one specifically for disarming Congolese belligerents."

He added that incentives would be considered as a way of voluntarily disarming the fighters. This idea was first mooted by Chief Kahwa Panga Mandro, leader of the Parti pour l'unite et sauvgarde d'intergrite du Congo, a coalition of Ituri ethnic militias also known as PUSIC. Mandro suggested this at the signing of the UN-sponsored Cessation of Hostilities in Ituri Agreement early in March.

The deal was backed by Jerome Kakawave, leader of the militia Force armee populaire du Congo, who at the signing of the agreement said that the basic material incentives like the opportunity to swap guns for bicycles or iron sheets would work. The scheme would give particular attention to Ituri where tens of thousands of people are estimated to have died in fighting in the last four years.

Swing said that the outlook for peace in Congo was perhaps brighter in the last few days than at any time since the war started.

"We have been enormously impressed with the progress that has been made in recent days," he said. "We are very encouraged by the new body [transitional government] and the results of these negotiations are there to be seen."

He added, "The residual fighting you see in North Kivu are the dying kicks of a war that has run its course."

A new MONUC force in Ituri will operate under a Chapter Seven mandate, just as strong as that being used now by the French-led multinational force in Bunia, the main town in the district. In addition, Swing said that MONUC had signed a cooperation agreement with the Ugandan government to establish an office in Kampala.

"This will be used as a liaison office for our administrative and logistical operations in Ituri," he said.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict

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