DR Congo

DRC: Ituri peace accord postponed as UPC accuses MONUC of partiality

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KINSHASA, 18 February (IRIN) - The signing of a peace accord among hostile parties in the Ituri District of northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), due to be concluded on Wednesday, has been postponed, according to the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC).
"Confronted by repeated obstacles, MONUC held consultations with the parties to the Luanda accord, and a decision was taken to provisionally postpone the calendar for the application of this accord, as amended in Dar es Salaam and in Luanda, in order to allow for the time to carry out necessary negotiations with a view to resuming the peace process," read a statement issued by MONUC on Tuesday.

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, was concluded with a pledge to abide by the Luanda accord of 6 September 2002, which provided for the establishment of peace in Ituri and the withdrawal of Ugandan armed forces from the DRC.

Specific agreement on the practical modalities of an Ituri Pacification Commission (IPC) was reached during meetings held between DRC and Ugandan delegations on 14 and 15 February in the Angolan capital, Luanda.

According to MONUC spokesman Hamadoun Toure, the UN mission was upset by a communique issued by the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC), an ethnic militia headed by Thomas Lubanga.

"The [UN] Special Representative [Amos Namanga Ngongi] noted in particular that the decision of the UPC to prevent the participation of certain stakeholders in ending hostilities and achieving a peaceful resolution of the crisis in Ituri had resulted in the postponement of the signing of the peace agreement due to have taken place on 19 February 2003 in Bunia. The objections of the UPC would also have the effect of seriously compromising the launching of the Ituri Pacification Commission on the date foreseen," Toure told IRIN.

According to the MONUC statement, Ngongi was also "profoundly disappointed" by UPC claims of MONUC partiality made in a statement released on 14 February - the very day that the ministerial meeting on the practical modalities of the IPC was being held in Luanda.

"The UPC interprets certain positions taken in the final communique of the tripartite meeting among the Kinshasa and Kampala governments, and MONUC, as being a declaration of war," said the UPC communique, which also questioned the good faith of the two governments.

"The Special Representative deplores the unjustified accusations made against the UN Mission, which is not a signatory to the Luanda accord and should in no way be accused of partiality," said Toure.

Given the current climate of suspicion, a preparatory meeting held on Monday 17 February to discuss the anticipated peace accord was due to be signed in Bunia on the 19th did not take place.

"We were in Dar es Salaam last week, we returned on Tuesday, and on Wednesday we learned that a new political-military movement, the Front d'integration pour la pacification de l'Ituri (FIPI), had been created in Kampala, supported by both Kinshasa and Kampala, and whose leaders are currently in Kinshasa holding negotiations with Kabila to plan the takeover of Ituri," Lubanga told IRIN by telephone.

The Kinshasa government has denied the presence of a FIPI delegation in the capital. "Neither chief Kawa [leader of the new FIPI militia] nor members of his delegation are in Kinshasa," the DRC government spokesman, Kikaya Bin Karubi, said.

According to Kikaya, the Ituri process had been postponed because Kinshasa government representatives were travelling to Paris, where a Franco-African summit is to be held this week.

"There is no sincerity on the part of the leader of those who should be signing the peace accord with us," said Lubanga. Nevertheless, he believes that the signing of the peace accord will eventually take place. "I believe that the debate will be taken up again with MONUC, against whom we have certain grievances. The ceremony can take place at a later date," said Lubanga.

The UPC leader said his movement had already begun reconciliation efforts among belligerent ethnic groups two weeks ago. "The amendment of the Luanda accord and last week's meeting came as we were already in the process of moving forward," he said.

[ENDS]

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