Germany Appeals for African Peace Amid Fighting in Congo | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 09.11.2008
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Germany Appeals for African Peace Amid Fighting in Congo

Decrying a return to fighting on Sunday, Nov. 9, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, German President Horst Koehler urged all African nations to put an end to their disputes.

A displaced child returns to the ruins of a hut

War crimes have been committed against the people of Congo, the UN's envoy said

"This must have an end," said Koehler, speaking at the German-sponsored fourth Africa Forum in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Saturday. He said the news from DR Congo was "particularly disappointing."

As the forum met, the leaders of DR Congo and Rwanda were at a meeting in Kenya to try to negotiate an end to the fighting in eastern DR Congo.

Koehler noted that civilians bore the brunt of the impact of Africa's battles. Speaking from prepared comments, he said a self- aware Africa with equal rights for all must live up to its responsibility to guarantee "security and peace on its own continent."

He called on African leaders to pursue more transparent politics and to ensure that the profits from raw material mining benefited the entire population. At the same time, he urged European leaders to seek international trade mechanisms that factor in the needs of Africa.

That would include an "international raw materials strategy, that gives all exporters of raw materials a fair chance to participate in the market," the former IMF head said.

Violence in Congo

Plastic sheeting cover huts at a camp for displaced people

Civilians are hardest hit by violence, Koehler said

Koehler's appeals for peace come as fighting broke out among rebels and pro-government militia in Congo on Sunday, UN sources said.

"There have been heavy weapons clashes since 5:00 a.m. (0300 GMT) this morning," the spokesman for the UN mission in Congo (MONUC) Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich told the AFP news agency on Sunday, adding that fighting was concentrated at Ngungu, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) west of the provincial capital of Goma.

The clashes involved government troops (FARDC) and the rebels of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda, he said.

"Thousands of people are arriving at the MONUC base at Ngungu" to take shelter from the fighting, he added.

Both sides have been accused of executing civilians in two waves of terror the United Nation's envoy to the region said constitute war crimes. Aid workers had found the bodies of dozens of civilians in the town of Kinwanja, some 80 kilometers north of Goma.

UN envoy Alan Doss said "war crimes that we cannot tolerate" have been committed by rebel leader Laurent Nkunda's fighters and by Mai Mai militiamen who support the government.

Calls for cease-fire

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe called for "an immediate cease-fire" to allow the delivery of humanitarian assistance to refugees displaced by the fighting and urged the parties to the conflict to pursue a political solution.

At a meeting of the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC), Motlanthe said the SADC was "encouraged" by the diplomatic interaction between the Congo and neighboring Rwanda, which has been implicated in the conflict.

Motlanthe, whose country hold the rotating SADC chair, also called for the overstretched UN peacekeeping force of 17,000 in Congo to be given more powers.

"Their current mandate limits their ability to be real peacemakers," he said.

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