Written Answers. - Great Lakes Region.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

26 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps, if any, the Government is taking to promote a peaceful settlement to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the general Great Lakes area and to bring to justice those responsible for human rights abuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22048/98]

The Government is extremely concerned both at the suffering caused by the current conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and also the risk that it will escalate into a regional war. Of particular concern at this time are the increased militarisation of the crisis and the internationalisation of the conflict through the direct involvement of neighbouring states. Ethnic differences are being exploited for short-term gain by forces who attach no value to long-term stability. The progress which had been made towards resolving the appalling legacy of the 1994 genocide and responding to the impact of the subsequent return to their home countries of millions of refugees, is now under serious threat. Ireland, our EU partners and other international donors, therefore will work to support peace efforts as well as continuing generous support for the normalisation of life for the peoples of the Great Lakes region.

The cycle of genocide, ethnic violence and human rights abuse in the region must be broken if lasting stability is to be achieved. We therefore strongly support the work of the EU Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Mr. Aido Ajelio, who is actively supporting the peace efforts of the Presidents of Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania and regional organisations. These are aimed at securing early agreement between the conflicting parties to a cease-fire in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This would involve a military standstill and an undertaking by the conflicting parties to refrain from further offensive action. Such agreement would facilitate negotiations aimed at a lasting political settlement including the withdrawal of outside military forces.

At the same time, the Government and our EU partners are maintaining our support of the Arusha peace process in Burundi. This is making some progress within agreed negotiating structures under the facilitation of former President Nyerere of Tanzania. In the case of Rwanda, we are continuing our efforts in support of judicial reform, human rights observance and the meaningful reintegration of genocide survivors and returned refugees into society. However, instability in the north-west of Rwanda and the ethnic implications of the conflict in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo are undermining our efforts.

Underlying our approach is a firm recognition of the need for each country in the Great Lakes region to continue to carry out fundamental reform in the areas of democratic transition, human rights, good governance and the rule of law. This is essential in order to achieve the necessary conditions for lasting stability. Regionally, this will be contingent upon the success achieved in these areas at national level. Ireland will therefore fully support the efforts of the EU, UN, OAU and other members of the international community aimed at ensuring that human rights violations against the innocent civilian population caught in the current conflict are monitored and that those responsible for them are brought to justice.