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UN boss, envoys urges DRC militias to abandon conflict

December 13, 2013 (KAMPALA)- The United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, and envoys for the Great Lakes region have called on militias in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to abandon their rebellion and resolve their grievances peacefully.

“The secretary-general calls on all other armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to lay down their weapons and pursue their objectives through peaceful, political means”, a statement issued by Ban’s office on Thursday said.

Ban has also asked neighbouring countries to help in addressing the root cause of the conflict.

“The secretary-general hopes that the DRC and its neighbours will build on the latest positive developments by working together to address the root causes of instability in eastern DRC”, the statement said.

Analysts say countries such as Uganda and Rwanda, which share a border with the DRC, have an instrumental role to play in reaching a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern DRC. Both countries in the past have been accused by the DRC and a UN panel of experts of providing support to M23 rebels, an allegation that both deny.

Calls for militias to end the conflict comes a day after the DRC and M23 signed a peace deal in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Once the most powerful of the numerous militia groups operating in eastern DRC, the M23 abandoned its rebellion in October following its defeat by the Congolese army and a UN intervention force comprising of soldiers from Tanzania, South Africa and Malawi.

As part of key sticking points, the Congolese government and the M23 agreed on an amnesty for former rebels for acts of aggression and war; the release of all M23 rebels detained by the DRC and the demobilisation of former M23 combatants.

Meanwhile, international envoys for the Great Lakes Region have called on both sides in the conflict to urgently implement the agreement.

“The envoys encourage the parties to promptly implement their commitments in the declarations, including the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of M23 members in the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda as appropriate”, they said in a statement on Thursday.

NO AMNESTY FOR PERPETRATORS

Both the UN secretary-general and the envoys said perpetrators of crimes in the eastern DRC conflict will not be eligible for amnesty under the peace deal and should be brought to justice.

Prosecution of rebel commanders alleged to have committed crimes is likely to cause unease among M23 rebels, whose commander, Sultani Makenge, is currently in Uganda.

While the DRC has demanded that he be handed over for trial, the Ugandan government declined, saying his fate would be resolved by the agreement that has now been signed between the two parties. It remains unclear at this stage whether Uganda will hand over Makenge to the DRC now that the agreement has been signed.

(ST)