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UN force too weak to resist rebels, Kenyan minister says

Video by Arnaud ZAJTMAN , Marlène RABAUD , Gulliver CRAGG

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-09

Speaking a day after his country hosted a summit aimed at stemming the crisis in the DRC, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula criticized a weak UN mandate that does not allow peacekeepers to engage in active clashes with rebels.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula Saturday lamented the weakness of UN peacekeepers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in the face of a rebel assault.
   
Wetangula spoke a day after a regional summit in Nairobi called for a ceasefire, but fighting raged in the region amid new claims that Angolan soldiers have joined the battle, bolstering Congolese government troops.
   
"What is the point of having 17,000 troops who cannot fire, who cannot disarm, who just walk around with blue helmets," Wetangula told a press conference here, referring to the UN mission in Congo (MONUC) peacekeepers.
   
Wetangula said Friday's summit was informed that the UN peacekeepers' mandate would not change to allow them to engage in active clashes in eastern DR Congo, where pro-government troops are battling rebels of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) led by renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda.
   
The Kinshasa government also accuses Rwanda of backing the rebels, a charge Rwandan President Paul Kagame has denied.
   
"I don't think any president who attended the meeting (Friday) was on trial. The meeting was on Congo, it was not going to be mixed and coloured up with the Rwanda issue," Wetangula added.
   
On Saturday, the head of the MONUC, Alan Doss, accused Nkunda's rebels and pro-government militia of committing war crimes earlier this week by killing civilians in the town of Kiwanja, near Rutshuru, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of the Nord-Kivu provincial capital, Goma.
   
The UN and humanitarian aid groups said the latest round of fighting had displaced 253,000 civilians since September -- and left at least 100 dead.
   
Goma, a city of 500,000 inhabitants, remains in government hands, with nearly 1,000 UN peacekeepers on its streets.
   
Kenyan officials said the UN special envoy on the DR Congo crisis, Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo, is expected to travel to the troubled country late next week to meet the warring sides.
   
Obasanjo is expected to separately meet Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Nkunda in a bid to breathe life into stalled talks aimed at implementing previous peace accords. Kabila's regime has refused to meet the rebels.
   
Kenya chairs a regional initiative, which organised the summit, tasked with restoring peace in the Great Lakes region.

Date created : 2008-11-09

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