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Belgian FM makes ’emergency’ Congo visit

Published on 07/06/2004

7 June 2004

BRUSSELS – Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel was in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Monday in a bid to calm a violent uprising that has sparked an angry war of words between the central African state and neighbouring Rwanda.

Michel arrived in DRC capital Kinshasa on Sunday on what aides called an “emergency mission”.

He met immediately with the country’s President Joseph Kabila.

Aides said he would “probably” hold talks Rwandan President Paul Kagame during a meeting of African leaders on Monday.

Last week two rebel DRC generals seized the north eastern town of Bukavu, near to the border with Rwanda.

The capture sparked violent protests across the country, which have left at least 27 people dead.

The DRC’s provisional government says Rwanda is supporting the rebels, though Rwanda denies the claim.

Speaking after his meeting with Kabila on Sunday, Michel called on the rebel troops to “surrender and re-join the their army,” referring to official DRC forces.

He made no direct comment on the allegations that Rwanda was backing the uprising but he insisted that “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Congo are sacred.”

Michel also called on “neighbouring countries to act responsibly to safeguard the peace process.”

Later, the Belgian Foreign Minister said that the EU might well send a peacekeeping force to the DRC.

He said his EU colleagues agreed in principle to the plan but that the “modalities” still needed to be sorted out.

On the same day that Michel made his comments, one of the rebel generals announced he was pulling his forces out of Bukavu in what he called a “good faith” gesture.

“I am handing over control of the town to the MONUC,” he told journalists, referring to the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news