- The Washington Times - Friday, February 18, 2000

Congo appeals heard

Congolese Ambassador Faida Mitifu was a lone voice earlier this week, urging a strong U.S. role in ending the 19-month-old civil war in her country.

Since her testimony during a House hearing Tuesday, President Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have joined her chorus. (A fuller story on Mr. Clinton's remarks appears elsewhere in today's paper.)

Mrs. Mitifu, in her appeal to the House International Relations subcommittee on Africa, praised the United States for the support it has provided so far in diplomatic forums such as the United Nations.

"I want to commend you … for the positive role the United States is playing to bring peace and stability to the … region," she said.

"Your country has given millions of Congolese citizens hope that one day they, too, can live in peace and prosperity. For this hope to be realized, however, it is critical that the United States remain highly engaged in the region."

With assistance from Rwanda and Uganda, rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo took up arms against the government of President Laurent Kabila in late 1998. Congo is backed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The ambassador said, "Our people are suffering immensely. According to the U.N., today there are 960,000 internally displaced persons in eight of the 11 provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and over 300,000 refugees from six of its neighboring countries."

Mrs. Mitifu added, "Even as the peace process moves forward, some of the most shocking atrocities of the war have taken place, only recently reminding us that each day peace is postponed, more people will die."

She blamed Rwanda and Uganda for allowing the atrocities in the rebel-occupied areas of Congo.

"Innocent people are arrested and kidnapped, subjected to torture, and murdered routinely in these areas," she said.

"There is a pattern here. Large-scale massacres and human rights abuses are a part of everyday life in areas occupied by Rwanda, Uganda, and their rebel allies."

She complained that human rights violations are worse than those committed in Kosovo.

"In addition to human atrocities," she said, "we are witnessing the massive pillage of Congo's natural resources.

"It is well known that the occupation is benefiting a small class of businessmen and generals in these countries, who are exploiting diamonds, gold, timber, and coffee from my country."

Mrs. Mitifu warned that the government cannot restore order and "the traditional solidarity of the Congolese people" until "all hostile forces" are withdrawn.

Diplomatic protests

The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon was not the only American envoy feeling the heat Thursday for Israeli attacks against civilian targets in southern Lebanon.

Egypt and Jordan complained to the American ambassadors that the United States must make Israel comply with an April 1996 agreement with Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas to avoid attacking civilians. Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries with full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mussa summoned Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer to tell him of "Egypt's concern about Israel's serious violation of the April agreement," Mr. Mussa told reporters in Cairo.

"Egypt has asked the U.S. administration to live up to its responsibilities as the main sponsor of the Middle East peace process, in order to stop the Israeli aggression against south Lebanon," he said.

In Jordan, Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah Khatib delivered a similar message to Ambassador William Burns.

Mr. Khatib told Mr. Burns of Jordan's "rejection of the use of force against Lebanon and attacks on civilian installations," the official Petra news agency said.

"Mr. Khatib urged the U.S. administration to strive to put an end to the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and underscored the need to respect the terms of the April agreement," Petra reported.

After Hezbollah guerrillas killed five Israeli soldiers, Israel launched air raids last week on three power stations that wounded 22 civilians.

Meanwhile in Lebanon, protesters staged another day of demonstrations against the United States and demanded the expulsion of Ambassador David Satterfield.

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