Sir Ketumile Masire visits Canada

Ottawa Must Support Peace Process In Congo

Sir Ketumile Masire, facilitator for the Inter-Congolese dialogue, begins an official visit to Canada.

Montreal, 04 October, 2000 ? Rights & Democracy is calling on Ottawa and the international community to show more support for the peace process in the war ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo as Sir Ketumile Masire, facilitator for the Inter-Congolese dialogue, begins an official visit to Canada.

“Sir Masire’s work to bring all sectors of Congolese society to the dialogue table is an important initiative for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Warren Allmand, President of Rights & Democracy.

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) appointed Sir Masire in December last year to organize a national dialogue as a follow-up to the Lusaka Cease-Fire Accord of August 1999. Sir Masire was President of Botswana from 1980 to 1998 and heads the International Panel of Eminent Personalities of the OAU investigating the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

“Canada, which has made human security the cornerstone of its foreign policy, must reject Congolese strong man Laurent-D?sir? Kabila’s attempts to block the peace process and show strong support for the work of the mediator. Ottawa must support the work of the mediator and play a leadership role as member of the UN Security Council.” Mr. Allmand said.

The Canadian government has promised $1 million to support the Inter-Congolese dialogue but to date Mr. Masire has only received a fraction of that amount. Mr. Allmand said Ottawa should be putting these funds to good use as soon as possible.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, currently on a fact-finding mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has expressed concern at the alarming number of unresolved human rights violations in the country. To date, some 200,000 people have lost their lives in the bloody conflict that threatens to destabilize the entire region. An estimated 1.3 million have been forced from their homes by the violence and up to 1.7 million are believed to have died from hunger and disease caused by the collapse of the economy and public health infrastructures the war has brought in its wake. Some areas of the country teeter on the verge of famine.

The Lusaka Accord, mediated by the OAU, provided a glimmer of hope for a negotiated end to the war. The provisions of the accord set the stage for a national dialogue leading to “a new political order” between the government, rebel groups, political opposition and civil society. Rights & Democracy has worked with partners in Congo-Kinshasa and abroad to support the participation of civil society in the peace process and organized meetings in Montreal and in Botswana to promote dialogue and participation. Another meeting will be held in Cotonou (B?nin) later this month.