UN asked to probe foreigners’ killing in Congo

Author: AP, AFPThu, 2017-03-30 03:00ID: 1490811574178337800COPENHAGEN: Sweden’s prime minister said on Wednesday the UN and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) must investigate after three bodies, including those of Swedish and American investigators with the UN, were found in central Congo.Stefan Lofven said he learned with “great sorrow and dismay” that the bodies of Swedish national Zaida Catalan, American Michael Sharp and their interpreter Betu Tshintela were found this week.Lofven said that Catalan worked “tirelessly for peace and justice,” adding Sweden was “naturally ready to assist” in investigating their death.UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres vowed that the world body would do “everything possible” to bring justice in the case.“Michael and Zaida lost their lives seeking to understand the causes of conflict and insecurity in the DRC in order to help bring peace to the country and its people,” the UN chief said.“I trust that the Congolese authorities will conduct a full investigation into this incident. The UN will also conduct an inquiry. In case of criminal acts, the will do everything possible to bring justice in the case.”The two victims were kidnapped by unidentified assailants on March 12 along with four Congolese accompanying them in Kasai-Central province. Government spokesman Lambert Mende said the woman’s body had been decapitated.The remote region has been plagued by violence since mid-August, when government forces killed Kamwina Nsapu, a tribal chief and militia leader who had rebelled against Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s central government.The violence has spilled over from Kasai to the neighboring provinces of Kasai-Oriental and Lomami, leaving at least 400 people dead.Several days before the two UN experts were kidnapped, a Uruguayan peacekeeper was shot and injured in the same region.On Monday, Congolese national police accused rebels of massacring 39 of their officers in Kasai.The victims were killed in an “ambush” early Friday as they were traveling in trucks, and buried in a mass grave by supporters of the late Kamwina Nsapu, a police spokesman said.Jordan Anderson, Africa analyst for IHS Markit, cited reports that all 39 had been beheaded.The Kamwina Nsapu militia “is increasingly taking violent and hostile action against anyone it sees as being outsiders, interfering in the Kasai,” he said.The UN, the EU and African Union (AU) on Tuesday expressed “grave concern” over the spiralling violence in Kasai.The organizations “condemn this despicable act and express their condolences to the families of the victims,” they said.They called for an “urgent response from the country’s political leaders” to curb the violence and “urge the defense and security forces to exercise restraint in the efforts to restore order in the Kasai.”The UN Security Council voted on Wednesday on extending its mission in the DRC, the largest and costliest UN peacekeeping mission in the world.The UN has 19,000 soldiers, police and military observers deployed in the mission, costing $1.2 billion annually.About 100 of those troops were recently dispatched to the Kasai region.France warned last week that drastic cuts to the mission would be tantamount to “playing with fire” as the DRC is also embroiled in election turmoil.France has circulated a draft resolution to renew the mandate of the peacekeeping mission, but is facing scrutiny from the US which is seeking cuts to UN peace operations.The influential Catholic Church in the DRC brokered a deal in late December to pave the way for elections by the end of 2017, but the agreement has been bogged down in disputes over the appointment of a new prime minister.Elections would bring an end to the rule of Kabila, in power since 2001.
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