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Washington - Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila must eradicate armed groups operating in his country and protect all citizens irrespective of ethnicity, a top US official said Monday.
“Each of the states in the region have responsibilities and their leaders have responsibilities,” the top US diplomat for Africa, Johnnie Carson, said, stressing Rwandan President Paul Kagame must also play his role in defusing tensions between the two African neighbours and ending a violent uprising.
“In the DRC, President Kabila clearly has responsibilities. His challenges are great but his responsibilities are equally important,” Carson said, asked on a conference call why Rwanda was being pushed to denounce rebels inside Congo, while there were few similar demands on Kabila.
Kabila must “protect all of the Congolese citizens... irrespective of their ethnicity and their language,” including the “Rwandaphone populations” in the eastern provinces of Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu, Carson said.
“He has a responsibility to go after and eradicate all armed rebel groups in his country,” Carson stressed, adding Kabila must also protect women and ensure minerals are transported out of the country in a transparent fashion.
Congo's neighbors must “not support rebel groups operating against the country or neighbouring country, not train or politically influence or ship arms to rebel groups that undermine the security of a neighbouring state,” he said.
“And it is not, and should not be, too much to ask of the neighbouring government of Rwanda to denounce a rebel group that is preying on the lives of people, or undermining the stability of a neighbour,” Carson added.
Kagame and Kabila met last week on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in a bid to defuse tensions amid a growing crisis in eastern Congo, where rebels have carried out a wave of rapes and killings.
But a source close to the talks said the two men stuck by their positions. Kabila renewed his claims that his country was “a victim” of outside interference, while Kagame said Rwanda should not be made a “scapegoat” for the violence in the country,” the source said.
Nearly half a million civilians have been displaced by the current conflict after M23 rebels launched an uprising in eastern Congo in April. Congo has accused Rwanda of backing the Tutsi rebels.
But Rwanda has denied the charge and in turn accuses Kinshasa of backing a group of Hutu rebels who also operate in eastern Congo.
The M23 is led by Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, and was formed by former fighters in an ethnic Tutsi rebel group that was integrated into the Congolese military in a 2009 peace deal. - Sapa-AFP