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African leaders want a "complete halt" to fighting in DR Congo

posted 8 Aug 2012, 09:38 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 8 Aug 2012, 09:39 ]

African Great Lakes leaders call for sanctions against parties obstructing the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as the United Nations humanitarian chief visits the volatile country.

African leaders of the Great Lakes region say they will impose sanctions on any party obstructing peace in the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday (August 8).
The decision was reached at the end of a two-day leaders summit on the conflict in Uganda.

Advances by Tutsi-led M23 rebels have thrown the ethnically-mixed east of Congo into conflict, displacing thousands of civilians.

Rwanda has strenuously denied allegations by United Nations experts that its military officials have provided equipment and recruits to the M23 rebels.

Uganda has also rejected similar allegations, while Congolese army defectors have been swelling the ranks of the M23.

The leaders meeting in Kampala said there has to be a "complete halt" to the fighting.

"One, undertake a vigorous effort to ensure that there is a complete halt to fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo without excluding the possibilities of sanctions against those who obstruct the peace process. Two, to support the efforts of the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo in order to restore peace in eastern DRC particularly in the northern Kivu province," Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister, Henry Okello Oryem, said, reading the summit's closing resolution.

The leaders also formed a sub-committee to analyse the formation of a neutral, anti-rebel force intended to secure the region.

As the summit came to a close, United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos toured the DRC, visiting a camp in Goma, where thousands of Congolese who have fled the fighting are taking refuge.

Amos said the conditions in the camp were "terrible."

"The situation here is very terrible, people have come here spontaneously we are doing our best to respond but thousands of people displaced in a very short period of time, everything has to be done politically for fighting to stop," Amos said.

Over 450,000 people have fled their homes in the past four months in the DRC, a small portion of them fleeing into Uganda and Rwanda.

Most leave their homes with nothing.

"We are happy because we fled without anything; we had nothing even for fetching and storing water. We are happy to have received this aid," a woman at the camp, Maria Simbomana, said.

A recent upsurge in fighting has drawn government troops to reinforce Goma, leaving a security vacuum for armed groups to attack villages and refugee camps elsewhere.

Eastern Congo's enduring conflict, which has killed, maimed and displaced several million civilians over nearly two decades, has its roots in Tutsi-Hutu ethnic and political enmities dating back to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.