UN Considering Regional Proposal To Deploy Neutral Force In DR Congo

A top U.N. official has indicated that the world body is seriously considering implementation of a regional proposal for deploying a neutral force in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for quelling the ongoing violence there.

It was revealed in remarks made by Under Secretary-General Herve Ladsous, head of the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, at a press conference held in the town of Goma in DRC's eastern North Kivu province, according to a U.N. news release issued Wednesday.

The concept of deploying a neutral international force along the border between Rwanda and DRC was proposed by Great Lakes countries at a regional summit held in July, following months of violence in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu in eastern DRC due to the renewed operations of armed groups.

Ladsous is currently visiting Africa's Great Lakes region ahead of a high-level meeting set for next month to devise a unified regional response to the ongoing violence in eastern DRC. That meeting is scheduled to take place in New York on September 27 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

In addition to the DRC, the U.N. official will also visit Rwanda and Uganda during the course of his current trip to Central Africa

"The concept must be developed and further detailed, while realizing that after all it is up to the Security Council to express itself on the approval of such a concept and its implementation," Ladsous was quoted as saying in the U.N. press release.

"The Democratic Republic of the Congo has certainly experienced, in these last months, an extraordinarily complex and sad situation, marked by much suffering and considerable displacement of the population due to violence, murders, rapes and insecurity," he added.

Intensive fighting between government troops and a group of renegade soldiers known as the 23 March Movement (M23) in DRC's eastern provinces of North and South Kivu has displaced more than half a million people, including many who have fled to neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Besides fighting the mutineers, the Congolese security forces are also engaged in separate offensives against Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda rebels in the east and the Uganda-based Lord's Resistance Army in the north. The Congolese army is being assisted in its anti-rebel campaigns by the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, better known by the French acronym MONUSCO.

In late June, the U.N. Security Council had extended the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in the DRC for one more year. U.N. peace-keepers were sent to DR Congo in 1999 as part of international efforts aimed at ending the 1999-2002 civil war and establish peace in the region. The fighting dragged in six other countries and left more than four million people dead.

Apart from fighting the rebel groups, the Congolese government is currently struggling to contain a deadly outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever in the country's north-eastern Haut-Uele district. The World Health Organization (WHO), which has been assisting the Congolese government in fighting the outbreak, estimates that a total of 28 Ebola cases, including 14 deaths, have been reported from the district so far.

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