Congo Facing New Turmoil

Bishops Plead for Peace in Troubled Republic

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KINSHASA, Congo, MARCH 31, 2003 ( Congo’s bishops have raised the alarm about the possibility that Uganda and Rwanda might be embroiled in a new confrontation on Congolese soil.

In a letter sent to the Misna missionary agency, the secretariat of the bishops’ conference noted the presence of numerous Rwandan troops in the east of the country and firmly condemned «the strike of force that attempts to sabotage the peace efforts carried out to date.»

«With faith in the values of peace and dialogue, we disapprove of this extremely serious act and denounce the Congolese who favor this continuous violation of the sovereignty of our country,» the note reads.

«We call for the immediate withdrawal of the Rwandan and Burundian troops positioned on the outskirts of Lubutu and those situated in the territories of Lubero and Ruzizi,» the bishops stress.

Over the past two weeks, Rwandan battalions have crossed the borders and taken up positions in the eastern zone of the former Zaire, according to Bishop Melchidezek Paluku Sikuli of Butembo-Beni.

The soldiers sent to the Congo from Kigali and Bujumbura might have gone to Ituri and probably toward Bunia, a city controlled by the Ugandan army, since early this month when it was taken from Thomas Lubanga and his men, the militias of the Union of Congolese Patriots.

Lubanga, former ally of the Ugandans, recently opted for a rapprochement with Rwanda. Since then, tension is increasing between the two nations most involved in the Congolese conflict.

«While the international community is focused on the war in Iraq, we feel the need to forcefully remind it that the Congolese people have a right to peace,» the bishops stress.

«We find it inadmissible that the Democratic Republic of the Congo serves as a field of battle for the rendering of accounts of foreign armies,» they conclude.

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