UNITED NATIONS – The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) needs the UN help to disarm and repatriate, forcibly if necessary, foreign armed groups in its territory, President Joseph Kabila told world leaders on Thursday.
Despite a UN-mediated ceasefire this month, eastern DR Congo’s north Kivu province has been the scene of battles between the Congolese army and fighters loyal to General Laurent Nkunda.
President Paul Kagame also echoed the same concerns in his address to the Assembly on the same day.
“Almost 14 years after their deeds in our country, they are still sowing mayhem in the region -- they rape, murder, terrorize and plunder with impunity,” Kagame said.
Kagame told the UN General Assembly he was committed to helping restore peace and stability in the region but said that forces that committed Genocide in Rwanda in 1994 were continuing to operate in the Great Lakes region.
Human rights groups fear the violence, whose origins lie in the 1994 Genocide and the DRC’s own 1998-2003 war, could fuel ethnic tensions.
Thousands of civilians have fled the area, which borders Rwanda.
“The path leading to the irreversible end of the multitude of crises that have beset my country for so many years remains full of obstacles,” Kabila told the UN General Assembly.
“With regard to foreign armed groups, the support of the United Nations is crucial for their voluntary, or, if need be, their forced disarmament, their repatriation and their re-integration,” he said.
Nkunda, who first led a revolt in 2004, says he is fighting to protect his people in eastern Congo against attacks by largely Rwandan Hutu rebels, including former Interahamwe fighters accused of involvement in the 1994 Genocide.
“I once again call upon the international community, in collaboration with the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to end the threat posed by these negative forces once and for all,” Kagame said.
A Rwandan-brokered peace deal signed by Nkunda with Kabila’s government in January began re-integrating thousands of his fighters into special mixed brigades of the national army.
Kabila told the General Assembly that completing the process of disarmament, demobilization and re-integration of fighters was an absolute priority for his government.