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DRC Asks US for New Great Lakes Envoy

by Nick Long May 29, 2015

Lawmakers in the Democratic Republic of Congo have called on the U.S. to name a new envoy to the Great Lakes region, to replace the retired Russ Feingold.

In a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, they said the envoy is needed to counter renewed insecurity in the region. Ten Congolese parliament members from opposition parties and the ruling coalition signed the letter to Obama, which was made public this week.

In it, they ask Obama to again place Africa's Great Lakes region high on his agenda, in view of renewed insecurity and the risk of an upsurge of Islamist terrorism in the region.

The lawmakers note massacres that have claimed more than 400 lives since October and a surge of kidnappings in eastern DRC, as well as the recent turmoil in Burundi.

They suggest this might be the prelude to yet another rebellion in Congo, which could undo the work of former U.S. special envoy Feingold, who the lawmakers credit with playing a key role in the defeat of the M23 rebellion in Congo in 2013.

Appointee sought quickly

The letter ends with an appeal to Obama to appoint a new special envoy to the region soon.

One of the signers, deputy Juvenal Munubo Mubi of the opposition UNC party, told VOA he thought Feingold did a good job and is appreciated by people in the region.

Mubi said Feingold maintained contact with leaders in the region, in Kinshasa, Kigali, Kampala and Bujumbura and repeatedly emphasized the need to bring an end to the M23 rebellion as well as the need to deal with the question of the Rwandan FDLR rebels.

Good relations between the DRC and Rwanda have in the past been vital to security in the region, and Mubi said it was time to pay more attention to the two countries' cross-border security.

There are good reasons to be vigilant, he said, because there are reports of suspicious movements at the frontier between Congo's North Kivu province and Rwanda.

Mubi said he doesn't believe every rumor, but he points to a statement last month by the governor of North Kivu province, Julien Paluku, who told media that Rwandan soldiers had crossed the border and exchanged fire with Congolese troops.

Rwanda has denied that its troops made an incursion.

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