29 November 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Humanitarian Toll in Eastern Congo 'Devastating,' Clinton Says

Washington — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the humanitarian impact of the conflict in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been devastating and that those behind recent human rights abuses must be held accountable.

Speaking with African Union (AU) Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma November 28 in Washington, Clinton said the United States strongly condemns the "tactics of fear and intimidation" that have accompanied the conflict since a rebellion broke out in the region in April.

Clinton said more than 285,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and are in need of critical assistance. In addition, she said, health workers in the city of Goma have been killed and abducted, and civil society and human rights activists as well as judicial authorities throughout the DRC have received death threats.

The secretary said the Obama administration has welcomed an agreement reached November 24 in Kampala, Uganda, between the leaders of the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda to try to peacefully resolve the conflict, including ending "any and all support" for the M23 rebel group that has captured Goma and other parts of eastern Congo.

The AU joined the November 24 discussions in Kampala, where the parties agreed that M23 "must be out" of areas it has seized in eastern Congo and be replaced by a neutral force, while President Kabila will listen to and evaluate the group's concerns.

"There is only one way forward" for M23, Clinton said. "They must meet their commitments under the Kampala Accords to cease their attacks, withdraw from Goma, and pull back to the July lines."

Under the Kampala agreement, the DRC government led by President Joseph Kabila "has agreed to hear and address the grievances of the M23 leaders," she said.

The agreement offers "a path forward," Clinton said, but "it is up to the parties now to hold themselves accountable, and each other, for acting on those agreements."

Clinton praised the role of the AU in working to resolve African conflicts, including in Somalia, the Darfur region of Sudan and Mali, and between Sudan and South Sudan. She said the United States also supports the AU's leadership in facilitating a resolution to the conflict in eastern DRC.

"The AU is the partner who is best able to empower and mobilize the resources and the will throughout the continent to address crises, and we are very pleased to see this strong role getting even stronger," she said.

Dlamini-Zuma said the AU is focusing its work to bring about "a prosperous Africa which is at peace with itself and the world."

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