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Belligerents in DRC, Burundi told to accept responsibility

President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and the head of the visiting United Nations Security Council delegation have called on political leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Burundi to shoulder their responsibility for restoring peace in their countries. Speaking at a press conference in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam, on Saturday, both Mkapa and the French ambassador to the UN, Jean-David Levitte, stressed that while the UN delegation would try to help coordinate the peace processes, ultimately it was up to the leaders involved in the conflicts to put the wellbeing of their people before personal interests, and bring stability to the region. Another UN delegate added that the possibility of imposing sanctions on the warring parties had been raised as the international community was finding the violence more and more "unacceptable". Mkapa said the problems had arisen out of a lack of commitment to the peace process. "It is the political leadership of Burundi, of all shades of ideology, that have to put national interests above the jockeying for positions, whether in a transition or in a final dispensation," he said. At the moment, he added, delays in bringing peace were the result of leaders concentrating on protecting their own positions, rather than trying to support a lasting peace. He said that leaders had to realise that "their people had suffered enough and that they had a unique opportunity to restore a sense of national unity and to give expression to independence, territorially". "I would say the same of the Congolese dialogue too," he concluded. Unlike many of DRC's neighbours, Tanzania does not have troops involved in the conflict, although it has been accused of harbouring foreign armed elements among the more than one million people who have sought refuge in the country. For his part, Levitte said that the UN echoed Mkapa's sentiments entirely, and that while the Security Council could help leaders implement agreements they had negotiated themselves, it had to be a joint effort. He said there was "no room" in the region for those would not stop fighting, as there was now real hope for peace. More specifically, Levitte told reporters that the issue of foreign troops in the DRC had been discussed with foreign ministers on the trip. As well as disarming the Rwandan troops (ex-FAR) and Interahamwe still in the DRC, Levitte said the idea of a temporary curtain of troops on the Congolese side of the Rwandan border had been suggested by the Security Council and might help address some of the security concerns in Rwanda. He said the troops would work in a limited area and "in agreement" with the troops of the DRC and "in participation" with observers from the UN mission in the DRC (known by its French acronym, MONUC). "And while we proposed that, we said that the same thing could be done for the border of Burundi and the border of Uganda," he added. "This has been approved not only by the government of the DRC but also by Uganda and Rwanda." Military experts would work out the practicalities of how such a buffer force would function, detailing the length of deployment, the extent of territory each force would patrol and their working arrangements with MONUC, Reuters reported on Friday. While acknowledging the progress made, Levitte said the peace process was "too slow" and, referring in particular to Burundi, with all elements of the political spectrum represented in the transitional government, there was "no reason" for the continued fighting, which he described as "meaningless". Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the UN and member of the Security Council delegation, stated that the international community was finding those intending to persist in taking the path of violence more and more "unacceptable". "The time has come for action in the region to convince those that preserve the military option that it is not going to be the answer for them or the region," he said. Recalling the effectiveness of sanctions on the Angolan rebel group UNITA, he continued: "It is time for these groups to realise that their leverage and their choices are going to diminish and narrow if they don't take the decision now to enter into negotiations." The idea of sanctions, Levitte concluded, had indeed been suggested and approved by the "ministers and signatories of the political committee", but, ideally, would only be used as a way to punish those who refused to implement deals they had signed. Meanwhile: * On Thursday 2 May, the UN team was in Luanda, Angola, to meet President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and the political committee of the Lusaka ceasefire agreement. Dos Santos told the delegation that he would use his influence to help build peace in the DRC now that his own country's war appeared to be over, news agencies reported. * A meeting in Luanda on Thursday between the Rwandan-backed Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) armed opposition movement and signatories to the Sun City accord did not produce any results, although the two sides agreed to continue to engage in dialogue. RCD Secretary-General Azarias Ruberwa reiterated his organisation's position to Radio France Internationale on Friday that the Sun City agreement was an exclusive deal made primarily between the Kinshasa government and the Ugandan-backed rebel Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) outside the agreed bounds of the inter-Congolese dialogue. * On Friday, the delegation was in Kampala, Uganda, to meet President Yoweri Museveni and MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who will serve as prime minister in the DRC's new political order. According to Radio Uganda, Museveni described the Sun City accord as a good foundation for peace, while stressing that it needed to be broadened to include all parties to the inter-Congolese dialogue. Museveni told journalists that he had advised DRC President Joseph Kabila and Bemba to be flexible on their agreement, and bring on board the other armed and political opposition groups in the DRC in order to have an all-inclusive transitional government. Museveni called for the unification of the administration of the DRC, with the withdrawal of foreign armies from the country, the organisation of elections and the rebuilding of state structures, Radio Uganda further reported. * The South African Foreign Affairs Department (FAD) objected on Friday to any suggestion that its hosting of the inter-Congolese dialogue for two months had been a waste of money, the South African SAPA news agency reported. South Africa agreed to meet most of the expenses incurred by the peace talks, estimated at about 40 million rand (US $3,827,751). An additional 33 million rand ($3,157,895) will reportedly be paid by foreign donors. The FAD acting deputy director-general for Africa, Lindiwe Zulu, said the South African government was still working out the final cost. "That people should think that the Congolese were just there to party really upsets me," SAPA reported her as saying. "They were very serious and committed to the talks." * On Sunday, the UN delegation was in Burundi to meet President Pierre Buyoya, Vice-President Domitien Ndayizeye and the presidents of the Senate and National Assembly. The team urged Burundi's transitional government to pursue political and social reform and appealed to its civil war foes to end violence, according to Reuters, which also quoted Levitte as saying that the Council would inform the IMF and the World Bank that economic aid for Burundi was indispendable now that a transition was underway. * Monday will be spent in Kigali to meet President Paul Kagame and Rwandan authorities. A meeting will also be held with a delegation of Rwandan former armed groups. On Tuesday, the team is due to return to UN headquarters in New York.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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