U.S., Other Envoys Praised For Ending Peacekeeper Standoff In Congo

By Julius Mokaya | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Nairobi (CNSNews.com) - African leaders Friday praised the U.S. ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and other diplomats for persuading Congolese rebels to accept the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in the civil war-torn nation, after the rebels had held up their arrival for nearly a week.

A spokesman for the Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity, Ahmed Ahmed Salim, said from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, that Salim was "delighted at the action taken by the United States, Britain, Russia and China in convincing the rebels of the necessity to cooperate in the matter."

Other analysts said the intervention of the world's most powerful nations had sent positive signals that the international community was willing to restore peace in the DRC.

"The intervention ... is a clear indication that the U.N. mission in Congo and the Great Lakes region as a whole has the backing of the entire international community," said Dr. Tom Ondachi of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Nairobi.

"It will now be difficult for both the rebels and the government to squander the opportunity."

Early this week, Congolese rebels backed by neighboring Rwanda objected to the deployment of U.N. troops in a key Congolese city, Kisangani, shortly before a Moroccan contingent was due to land there.

Their deployment is part of a peace agreement to end the civil war, which has raged in Africa's third-largest nation since August 1998, and has drawn in Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia in support of the government, as well as Uganda and Rwanda on the rebels' side.

Adolphe Onusumba, leader of the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy, demanded that the U.N. publish a report of ceasefire violations by forces loyal to the DRC government before he would allow U.N. troops to enter the city.

Unless the U.N. took firm action against the government for violating the ceasefire agreement, Onusumba warned, the peace process would die.

But the combined persuasive power of the foreign diplomats managed to convince the rebels to back down, and the troops, from Morocco, began arriving in Kisangani on Friday.

Hamadoun Toure, spokesman for the U.N. mission in the capital, Kinshasa, said Onusumba had welcomed the U.N. contingent.

"We want the deployment to go forward," said U.S. ambassador William Lacy Swing earlier. "It is essential that it happens.

"It is a commitment that everyone who is a signatory to the peace deal has made. It is a commitment that the Security Council has made, and we are confident that the process will go forward and the deployment will take place."

The rebels' refusal to let the Moroccans deploy had been the first significant setback to the U.N. mission since the peace process gained new momentum after the January16 assassination of Congolese President Laurent Kabila.

When Kabila's son, Joseph, took over as president, he pledged to do everything possible to end the war and to meet key provisions of a peace agreement signed in July 1999 in Lusaka, Zambia.

The newly arrived Moroccans are part of a 2,500-strong armed force that will protect U.N. bases and equipment, while 500 unarmed observers will monitor the cease-fire agreement.

Onusumba's rebel group claims that government soldiers attacked villages in one province two weeks ago, burned houses, and raped and robbed residents.

Gen. Mountaga Diallo, the Senegalese soldier in charge of the U.N.'s military mission, said U.N. observers had confirmed an attack had taken place on one village, involving the death of a villager and the rape of five women.