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Museveni appeals for more international support for Congolese refugees

September 8, 2013 (KAMPALA) – Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni has appealed for more international support for Congolese refugees who have fled violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to neighbouring countries in the Great Lakes region.

Museveni made the appeal in a statement released on Friday at the conclusion of a summit hosted by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) in Kampala.

Museveni, who is chair of the ICGLR, also warned M23 rebels against using “unconstitutional means” to topple the DRC government, saying both sides in the conflict should implement the resolutions agreed upon at the Kampala summit.

According to the Ugandan Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some 67,000 Congolese have fled to Uganda since July when fresh fighting broke out in eastern Congo.

The Ugandan government has expressed concerns about the pressure refugees are putting on its already stretched public services. This could partly explain why the summit was held at the invitation of the Ugandan government in order to discuss the deteriorating security situation in eastern Congo.

In a communique released at the end of discussions, regional leaders ordered the DRC government and the M23 rebels to resume peace talks aimed at achieving a long lasting solution to the conflict.

The Kampala summit was also attended by the special envoy of the secretary-general to the Great Lakes region, Mary Robinson, as well as Martin Kobler, the secretary-general’s special representative in the DRC.

The two envoys “urged all parties [in the DRC conflict] to bring the Kampala dialogue to a positive and swift conclusion, in order to move to a broader process addressing the deeper causes of the conflict”.

In a related development, DRC’s president Joseph Kabila on Sunday expressed his optimism that peace talks being held in Kampala between his government and rebels groups will succeed, saying his army was also ready to defend the country against those “who seek all means to destabilise it”.

“No effort will be spared so that the talks in Kampala succeed in restoring peace and state authority across the vast nation”, Kabila said in an address at a conference he organised in Kinshasa to promote national unity but which was boycotted by opposition parties.

Mineral rich eastern Congo has a myriad of rebel groups and militias, of which the M23 is the strongest among them. Both the United Nations and the DRC government have accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels, a charge Rwanda denies.