- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2003

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — The head of a U.N. Security Council mission urged the neighbors of Congo and Burundi yesterday to cooperate with the United Nations in ending the violence and civil conflict that has destabilized much of central Africa.

“It is for the countries of the subregion to find a way of building confidence among themselves,” said Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, France’s U.N. ambassador, at the end of the weeklong mission. “The Security Council can help but it cannot do the job.”

On May 30, the council authorized the deployment of a French-led emergency force of 1,400 to Bunia, a town in northeastern Congo where fighting among tribal militias killed more than 400 civilians. The new force, which began arriving Friday, will have a shoot-to-kill mandate, tougher than that of a contingent of U.N. troops already in the city, which has no mandate to protect civilians or intervene to stop fighting.

Mr. de la Sabliere said the Security Council mission would stress that no impunity should be given to those responsible for human-rights violations and related crimes in eastern Congo.

“What we have seen on the ground shocked us,” he said about a stop in Bunia.

During a brief stop Saturday in Rwanda, which backs a rebel faction in Congo’s five-year civil war and also supports tribal militia in Bunia, council members told President Paul Kagame the world was watching its actions in neighboring Congo.

Mr. Kagame, in a statement, replied that he would welcome a stronger U.N. presence and said the United Nations should ensure that the Congolese government fulfills its commitments under cease-fire and power-sharing agreements meant to bring peace to Congo.

Uganda is reportedly supporting another tribal militia in Bunia. But in an interview Friday in Washington, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni described as “rumor-mongering” reports that his country was using the tribal fighters as a proxy force in the struggle to control northeastern Congo’s natural resources.

The war in Congo erupted in August 1998 when neighboring Rwanda and Uganda sent in troops to support rebels seeking to oust Congolese President Laurent Kabila. They accused him of supporting insurgents from their countries who they said were threatening regional security.

Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola backed Mr. Kabila. The foreign troops have since withdrawn, but fighting among government forces, rebels and tribal militia continues.

The U.N. delegation also stopped in Luanda, Angola and the Congolese capital, Kinshasa. In Burundi’s capital, Bjumbura, Mr. de la Sabliere said he would lobby for funding for an African Union force to monitor the implementation of a cease-fire between the transitional Burundian government and three of four rebel factions in a nearly decade-long civil war.

If sufficient funds can be raised, troops from South Africa, Ethiopia and Gabon are expected to make up the force to bolster the three-year transitional government that entered its second and final phase on May 1.

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