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DR Congo: regional proposal for neutral force being considered, peacekeeping head says

12 September 2012 – A proposal for a neutral force to help quell the violence that is causing massive suffering in the eastern Democratic of the Congo (DRC) is under consideration by United Nations peacekeeping operations, according to a top official currently visiting Africa’s Great Lakes region ahead of a high-level meeting on the issue later this month.

“The concept must be developed and further detailed, while realizing that after all it is up to the Security Council to express itself on the approval of such a concept and its implementation,” the head of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous, said in a press conference in the town of Goma, located in eastern DRC’s North Kivu province on Tuesday.

The concept of deploying a neutral international force along the border between Rwanda and DRC was proposed by Great Lakes countries at a regional summit in July, following months of violence in the DRC due to the renewed operations of armed groups – particularly in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu.

Mr. Ladsous is in central Africa to meet officials of the region ahead of a summit which will consider responses to the violence, and set to take place in New York on 27 September, on the margins of the General Assembly. Following his visit to the DRC, Mr. Ladsous arrived in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, yesterday, and today continues on to Kampala, Uganda.

“The Democratic Republic of the Congo has certainly experienced, in these last months, an extraordinarily complex and sad situation, marked by much suffering and considerable displacement of the population due to violence, murders, rapes and insecurity,” Mr. Ladsous told reporters in Goma.

One of the key actors in the resurgent conflict is a group of renegade soldiers known as the 23 March Movement (M23). It has clashed with national army troops supported by peacekeepers from the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), and has caused massive displacement of local residents, in addition to raising concerns about the region’s stability.

The fighting has uprooted nearly half a million people over the past months, including some 220,000 people in North Kivu province, 200,000 in South Kivu province, and more than 51,000 who have fled to neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. The M23’s activities have led to condemnation from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council.

Mr. Ladsous said that MONUSCO has adopted, over recent months, a robust strategy for support to the Congolese armed forces to try to stem the violence in the Kivus. His added that discussions with high officials, including DRC’s President Joseph Kabila, were aimed at identifying further appropriate solutions.

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