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ICP Asks Ban of Tanzania Urging Rwanda To Talk with FDLR, Ban Talks Brigade

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 29 -- The Great Lakes and Congo were the topics of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's briefing Wednesday to the UN Security Council, and ostensibly of his rare question and answer stakeout afterward.

As the only Africa question, Inner City Press asked Ban about Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete having said at the African Union summit on Sunday that Rwanda should negotiate with the genocidaire FDLR militia. Does the UN agree? Does Ban see that Kikwete's statement might undermine the new UN Intervention Brigade or at least how it is perceived?

Ban replied that peace is the focus; he acknowledged that the Intervention Brigade is headed by a Tanzanian. That might be a problem.

  Ban's head of Peacekeeping, Herve Ladsous of France, again on May 29 openly refused to answer Inner City Press' question, about the 135 rapes in Minova by the Congolese Army in November. Video here.

After Ban left, a Security Council diplomat approached Inner City Press to say that Tanzania, like "some other Brigade participants," is too close to the issue, or has too much of an interest in the Congo.

The Brigade is supposed to "neutralize" armed groups like the FDLR. But if the commanding country thinks they should be negotiated with, how so? On the other hand, the creation of the Brigade seems to have undermined the Kampala talks between the M23 and the Joseph Kabila government.

Kikwete also said Uganda should speak with the ADL; we may have a separate story on that. Watch this site.

UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: President [Jakaya] Kikwete of Tanzania has said at the African Union Summit that Rwanda should negotiate with the FDLR. And the Rwandan Foreign Minister has called this abhorrent and said this would be akin to negotiating with people who committed genocide in Rwanda. Since Tanzania is part of the Intervention Brigade, some people are saying this makes the Brigade less than impartial. What do you think of the idea of Rwanda negotiating with the FDLR? Are they a legitimate group or are they still tied to the genocide of 1994? Thank you.

SG Ban Ki-moon: What is important at this time is that Tanzania is one of the signatories to the Framework Agreement and they are going to provide [to the] Intervention Brigade and the force commander is coming from Tanzania. I hope with all this Framework Agreement and active participation of many countries involved, we will be able to see first of all peace and stability. That is our focus at this time and I will not comment any further on that matter. Thank you very much.

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