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DRC: First meeting held to launch Ituri Pacification Commission

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KINSHASA, 17 February (IRIN) - Kampala and Kinshasa have agreed on modalities for the implementation of the Ituri Pacification Commission (IPC) and for the withdrawal of Ugandan military forces remaining in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The agreement was reached during meetings held on 14 and 15 February in the Angolan capital, Luanda. The meetings between the DRC and Ugandan delegations were held under the auspices of Angolan Foreign Minister Joao Bernado de Miranda.

"We have reached agreement on the elements of the practical modalities for the implementation of the Ituri Pacification Commission," said the commissioner-general of the DRC government in charge of the peace process in the Great Lakes region, Vital Kamerhe.

He said that a preparatory committee charged with overseeing a calendar of anticipated events was also put in place, and scheduled to first meet on Monday in Bunia, the principal city of Ituri District.

This meeting should pave the way for the signing of a peace accord on 19 February by all belligerents in the region, Dihur Godefoid Tchamlesso, the DRC ambassador to Angola, said.

"Uganda accepted that a technical meeting be held on 17 February in preparation for the meeting of 19 February. This latter meeting will be aimed at finalising the Luanda accord [of 6 September 2002], which was updated on 10 February in Dar es Salaam," Tchamlesso said.

He was referring to a two-day summit between presidents Joseph Kabila of the DRC and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda held on 9 and 10 February in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which they concluded with a pledge to abide by the Luanda accord.

"There are not many details available, but it can be said that this meeting will be a starting point for all parties," Tchamlesso said.

Whereas the armed groups of Ituri had not been directly involved in making these arrangements, he said, traditional leaders from the region had been involved in the process since the 9/10 February meeting held in Dar es Salaam.

At the end of their Dar es Salaam summit, Kabila and Museveni reaffirmed their commitment to abiding by the Luanda accord, which provides for the total withdrawal of Ugandan troops from the DRC and the normalisation of relations between Kinshasa and Kampala. An amendment to the Luanda accord was signed, allowing for a new timetable for the work of setting up the IPC.

Under the new timetable, the IPC was to have been established and operating by 17 February. It should end its work on 20 March, by which date Ugandan troops should have completed their withdrawal from the DRC.

In a joint communique, Kabila and Museveni said they had agreed that the IPC's preparatory committee be composed of two representatives each from the governments of the DRC and Uganda, and from the UN Mission in the DRC, MONUC, along with four representatives from the various stakeholders in Ituri.

The presidents also jointly condemned those who continued to supply weapons to armed factions in Ituri, resulting in the escalation of violence and human suffering.

The creation of the IPC and the calendar of events foreseen by the 6 September 2002 accord were never respected, as fighting among various armed groups continued after its signing.

"There must be people with powerful means who are impeding this process, because if Uganda or Rwanda were acting in good faith and there was no longer anyone to encourage, arm and finance these armed groups, peace would already have been restored in Ituri and in the DRC," Tchamlesso said.

Uganda has repeatedly expressed its intention to withdraw some 2,000 soldiers it has maintained in Bunia at the request of the UN for the protection of civilians.

"This weekend's meeting in Luanda was sanctioned by a committee and by a final document that was signed to avoid any party to the accord trying to pull an about-face on the agreement," Kamerhe said.

[ENDS]

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