- Congo parliament leaders quit as Rwanda row spreads
Sat Feb 28, 2009 7:16am GMT
By Joe Bavier KINSHASA (Reuters) - Most of the members of Democratic Republic of Congo's top parliamentary committee have quit in a deepening dispute over the presence of Rwandan forces in the country's violent east, lawmakers said on...";
By Joe Bavier
KINSHASA (Reuters) - Most of the members of Democratic Republic of Congo's top parliamentary committee have quit in a deepening dispute over the presence of Rwandan forces in the country's violent east, lawmakers said on Friday.
National Assembly President Vital Kamerhe has publicly criticised the decision by his former ally President Joseph Kabila to allow thousands of Rwandan troops to enter Congo last month to stamp out Rwandan Hutu rebel groups.
Rwandan troops began returning home on Wednesday after more than a month of operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, seen as being at the root of a decade and a half of conflict in Congo's troubled eastern borderlands.
Five members of the seven-strong National Assembly Bureau, which directs the business of the lower house and which Kamerhe also heads up, resigned this week in response to a call to do so from Kabila's Alliance of the Presidential Majority (AMP) coalition, which dominates both houses of parliament.
"We learned that during the parliamentary recess certain declarations were made that do not correspond with the policies of the majority," Olivier Kamitatu, Congo's planning minister and a member of the AMP's executive body, told journalists.
"These declarations could have harmed national cohesion and security," he said.
It was not clear what the constitutional implications of the resignations would be. Newspapers in the capital Kinshasa said there would be little direct impact on parliamentary business until the National Assembly reconvenes in March after a recess.
Kamerhe, a co-founder of Kabila's own PPRD political party and once considered one of the president's staunchest allies, has refused to resign. He could not be reached for comment on Friday.
"ASTONISHED" BY MOVE
In an interview given to United Nations-sponsored Radio Okapi soon after Rwandan troops crossed into eastern Congo on January 20, Kamerhe claimed he was "astonished" by the move.
"We are wondering what our population, which is only now getting over past Rwandan aggression, feels about this," he said.
Rwanda twice invaded its much larger Great Lakes neighbour under the pretext of taking on the FDLR, some of whom helped orchestrate Rwanda's 1994 genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.
A 1998 intervention helped spark a five-year war and subsequent humanitarian disaster that has killed an estimated 5.4 million people over the past decade.
Wednesday's Rwandan withdrawal followed intense pressure from critics, some noting that previous Rwandan forays into Congo were marked by abuses and looting of natural resources.
Over half the National Assembly's 500 members signed a petition this month demanding MPs return from recess for a special debate on the joint operation with Rwanda.
Those who signed include a number of AMP lawmakers, indicating new divisions among Kabila's supporters.
Members of the Senate, Congo's upper house of parliament, have launched a similar petition.
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
Et seule l'ONU croit encore que la MONUC a à faire en RDC:
- Ban calls for closer Congo-UN collaboration
Sat Feb 28, 2009 2:30pm GMT
By Yves Boussen
KISANGANI, Congo (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Saturday for increased collaboration between Congo and the U.N. peacekeeping mission there, which is under fire for failing to do its job.
The 17,000-strong mission, which is the U.N.'s largest and known as MONUC, helped usher Congo to landmark 2006 elections and has been credited with stabilising much of the vast central African nation following a brutal 1998-2003 war.
But it has been largely sidelined in recent months as Congo's President Joseph Kabila has allowed Ugandan and Rwandan troops into his country to hunt rebels who continue to roam across swathes of Congo's mineral-rich north and east.
"I was pleased to have this valuable opportunity to discuss with President Kabila the need to have close cooperation between the government and the people of the DRC and the U.N.," Ban told journalists after meeting Congo's president on Saturday.
"Close collaboration between the government and MONUC is especially important to stabilise the east and protect the population," he said in the eastern town of Kisangani.
During the peace process, the U.N. was heavily involved in negotiations between factions and organising elections while its peacekeepers often fought alongside Congo's fledgling army.
"The problem is MONUC has always been more successful politically than militarily. With its main role being protecting civilians, it's not performed that function very well," Jason Stearns, an independent Congo analyst, said.
The peacekeepers remain stretched across a nation the size of Western Europe and are struggling to find 3,000 reinforcements approved by the Security Council months ago.
Kabila also kept the mission in the dark over the joint operations, leaving them to contain the fallout, which aid workers say has seen over 1,000 civilians killed in reprisals.
Ban rejected recent criticism from rights groups and humanitarians, who accuse MONUC of not doing enough to fulfil its mandate to protect Congolese civilians.
"There are limits in capacity and resources, but MONUC makes efforts to support the (Congolese army) and protect civilians. We have saved tens of thousands of the civilian population during the fighting," he said.
Rwanda completed a pullout of thousands of its soldiers from the troubled border province of North Kivu on Thursday after more than a month of operations with Congo's army against the Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
Uganda's army, which is hunting Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels in the remote northeast, will miss a February 28 deadline to pull out.
The joint operations have been politically sensitive but all three Great Lakes neighbours, former enemies during the five-year conflict, have deemed the operations a success.
But the rapid withdrawal of foreign troops has raised fears that the rebels will retake positions and attack villagers despite the U.N. and government's efforts to maintain pressure by launching operations in new zones.
"The next few months are likely to be even more dangerous for civilians as the offensive expands," Marcel Stoessel, who head's Oxfam's mission in Congo, said in a statement.
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved