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Rwanda critical to DRC peace – Ban

24 May 2013, 18:13

Kigali – The UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that Rwanda was key to ensuring peace in volatile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, as he toured the region to boost a new accord to end decades of violence.

A UN-brokered accord, signed in February by 11 regional countries after a bloody uprising by DRC’s M23 rebels, is hoped to quell long running conflict in mineral-rich eastern Congo, which neighbours Rwanda.

That deal "is the best chance for peace in many years," Ban told reporters in the Rwandan capital where is visiting as part of a regional tour.

"I am appealing to all leaders to play their part... Rwanda is critical to the framework success," he added.

Rwanda plays a key role in the region, and has been accused by the UN of backing M23 fighters, claims that it has denied.

His visit to the region follows a renewal of deadly fighting between rebels and Congo's government forces that ended months of relative calm in the war-torn region.

On Thursday Ban toured the flashpoint Congolese city of Goma, which remained calm during his trip.

Both Kinshasa and the M23 have accused each other of launching hostilities and trying to scupper peace efforts in the restive east.

The latest bout of fighting near Goma, which was briefly seized by the M23 rebel group in an armed uprising last year despite the presence of a large UN peacekeeping force, has sent thousands of people fleeing.

Africa's deadliest wars

Ban had said earlier this week that deployment of a UN intervention force made up of about 3 000 African troops should be accelerated in view of the fresh unrest, with its deployment expected in "about one or two months".

The force made up of Tanzanian, Malawian and South African soldiers was approved by the UN Security Council in March as its first ever "offensive" peacekeeping brigade.

Despite its vast mineral wealth, the DRC - which covers an area roughly the size of western Europe -  is ranked by the UN as the world's least developed and has been devastated by some of Africa's deadliest wars.

On Thursday, Ban visited a memorial in Kigali to Rwanda's 1994 genocide, saying he had been "moved to tears", accepting that the UN had "failed in Rwanda" at that time, and vowing to work to ensure "peace and development throughout the Great Lakes region".

Some of those who carried out Rwanda's genocide - ethnic Hutu extremists - have since formed rebel groups in eastern DRC.

Ban is due to later travel on to neighbouring Uganda, which also plays an influential role in the region.

The M23 rebellion in the east last year, which led to the brief capture of Goma in November, threatened to drag the region into a fresh fully-fledged war amid claims by the United Nations and Kinshasa that Rwanda and Uganda are backing the M23.

The M23 - a largely ethnic Tutsi group of former army defectors - has vowed to retaliate if attacked by UN troops but said it does not intend to retake Goma.

The UN has accused the M23 of a string of rights abuses including arbitrary executions, forced disappearances, degrading treatment and rape of civilians.



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