afrol News, 30 March - The Kinshasa government has confirmed and condemned earlier reported massacres of civilians by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), calling on UN troops to arrest the LRA. The UN confirms it has launched an inquiry into the massacre.
In a statement issued by the DRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kinshasa government says it strongly condemns "the massacres and atrocities committed by the LRA, which was denounced by Human Rights Watch in a recent report," and the called for an immediately ceasefire. The Ministry confirms that "the LRA has long been a constant threat to security in the region by killing, kidnapping and displacing thousands of civilians."
The Congolese government says that, while it was "committed to ensure that vulnerable civilian populations are effectively protected," the UN peacekeeping mission MONUC needed to get involved. MONUC, which is deployed in the affected region, was called "to monitor the LRA" as part of its mandate.
"The perpetrators of these massacres should not benefit from impunity," the Foreign Minister said. "I recall that the LRA leader, Joseph Kony, is wanted by the International Criminal Court," he said, adding that the court must "continue its work" and arrest Mr Kony.
The rebel group, which has its origin in Uganda but also has terrorised civilians in Sudan, in a statement has denied any responsibility on the killings.
The UN, on the other hand, today confirmed that inquiries were continuing into the massacre, which occurred in the village of Mabanga in December. Martin Nesirky, the UN Secretary-General's spokesperson, told reporters in New York that the UN cannot confirm the exact number of victims until the formal investigation by MONUC has been completed.
The US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) was the first to document the December massacre in March. According to the HRW report, at least 320 people were murdered. Machetes, axes and heavy wooden sticks were apparently used to carry out the killings. The extreme remoteness of the area and the fact that witnesses may have moved were delaying efforts to gather reliable information.
The UN's Mr Nesirky said that MONUC strived to provide protection to all civilians in the area, but given the vast size of the territory, peacekeepers were only able to concentrate their efforts on the most populated areas. The mission, however, continued to provide support to government troops carrying out operations against the LRA.
Asked about MONUC's strategy in dealing with the LRA, whose members often cross the border into the DRC and other neighbouring countries, Mr Nesirky noted that the head of MONUC, Alan Doss, had reiterated that the area involved was equivalent to the size of Spain and protecting all civilians at all times was not feasible.
A number of human rights abuse and humanitarian crimes have been reported in the DRC, even where the UN mission has been active. After years of a civil war, compounded by rebel activities from neighbouring states, the DRC has been caught on the bad receiving end to normalise and bring stability to one of Africa's resource and mineral wealthy states.
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