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DRC-Rwanda deal a ‘significant breakthrough’

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday hailed as a ”significant breakthrough” last week’s agreement by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda to deal with illegal armed groups in the eastern DRC.

”The agreement between them on a common approach and immediate, concrete steps to carry it out marks a significant breakthrough,” Ban said in a statement issued by his press office.

”This approach offers an opportunity for the comprehensive resolution of the fundamental problems posed by irregular armed groups in the eastern DRC,” he added.

Ban urged both Kinshasa and Kigali to ”act urgently to implement all the agreed measures” and called on their international partners ”to support these efforts and to increase humanitarian assistance to respond to the dire situation on the ground”.

The secretary general, who is currently touring South America, also urged ”all irregular groups operating in the DRC to lay down their arms, and seize the opportunity for a normal life”.

Under the deal reached in Nairobi, Rwanda committed to seal its borders with the DRC to prevent the movement of any armed groups, in particular the renegade Congolese ex-general Laurent Nkunda, and to curtail any support to which they may have access.

The presence of the rebels, most notably a Rwandan Hutu militia known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), whom Kigali accuses Kinshasa of backing, has long strained ties between the two countries.

Kigali accuses some of the rebels — estimated to number 6 000 — of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which the UN says resulted in about 800 000 mostly Tutsi dead.

Rwanda in turn denies accusations that it is supporting Nkunda — who claims he is protecting the DRC’s Tutsi population — against the DRC troops in the east of the country.

Nord-Kivu in the eastern DRC has been the scene of clashes between the Congolese army and insurgents backing Nkunda in recent months. — Sapa-AFP

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