The New Times (Kigali)

10 November 2012

East Africa: Religious Leaders Petition United Nations Over DRC

RELIGIOUS leaders in Rwanda have petitioned the United Nations to distance itself from the recent controversial report by the UN Group of Experts claiming that Rwanda is aiding the M23 rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The religious leaders strongly questioned the integrity of the experts, report methodology, and why the so called experts were conclusive yet basing on insufficient evidence.

In a statement to the UN, a copy of which The Sunday Times has seen, the clerics expressed their deep concern over the confusion caused by the UN Mapping Report on the DRC (2010) and UN Group of Experts report (2012) about the situation in the Eastern DRC.

In the November 9, statement signed by Rt Rev. Onesphore Rwaje, head of Anglican Church in Rwanda, the clerics called upon the UN to begin a comprehensive, inclusive, and impartial process to finding lasting peace and security in the DRC.

The religious leaders expressed disappointment at the unfair attempts to undermine and derail Rwanda's modest progress towards economic and social transformation.

They further called on UN to cooperate with the African Union and regional bodies, including the Intergovernmental Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to set up conditions for peace, dialogue and reconciliation between the government of DRC and the defecting groups while seeking ways to help the DRC build solid institutions and consolidate democracy.

"The armed groups in the DRC are the outcome of a complex long-standing historical and political reality. A durable solution would require a deeper analysis of the situation in order to identify the root cause of the conflict and address real issues accordingly," reads the statement in part.

The clerics appealed for immediate humanitarian assistance for Congolese refugees who have been abandoned and considered as second class citizens, calling for their fundamental rights to be protected.

The controversial report accuses Rwanda and Uganda of providing support to M23 in the form of direct troop reinforcement in DRC territory or weapon deliveries among other allegations.

The two countries have repeatedly dismissed the allegations as baseless. Early last week, the UN reportedly distanced itself from the experts report, explaining that the views expressed by the experts didn't necessarily reflect that of UN position.

Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, who is also India's Permanent representative on the Council, was quoted by media saying the report was yet to be considered by the Sanctions Committee concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The religious leaders say the decision by some donors to suspend aid to Rwanda was rushed and unjustified.

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