By Ronald Ssekandi
KAMPALA, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Africa's Great Lakes countries vow to continue efforts to find a solution to conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) despite challenges ahead.
The regional efforts still stand to end the fighting in the east of the DRC, especially in the province of North Kivu, where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced since an M23 rebellion erupted in April.
Nathan Byamukama, a program officer of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), told Xinhua in an interview on Saturday that the region shall continue to draw lessons from Somalia, Burundi and Sudan-South Sudan experiences to pacify the DRC's mineral-rich east.
"These have been best practices, they have done it in Burundi, Somalia, Sudan and they have said they are committed to do it in DRC. So nobody should sabotage them," he said.
"We have sufficient evidence that regional effort if supported by the international efforts does well," he added.
The ICGLR official made the comments amid allegations in a recent UN report that Rwanda and Uganda were supporting the M23 rebels fighting the DRC government.
The M23, composed of a breakaway faction of soldiers from the DRC's national army, has seized seven towns in North Kivu province.
The fighting has internally displaced 475,000 people and forced 75,000 others to seek refuge in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Uganda and Rwanda have both denied the UN charges while demanding evidence implicating them.
The UN Security Council on Friday said it is considering applying targeted sanctions against the leadership of the M23 and those acting in violation of the sanctions regime and the arms embargo.
The Security Council reiterated its "strong condemnation of any and all external support to the M23" and demanded that "any and all outside support to the M23 as well as other armed groups cease immediately."
Adama Dieng, the UN secretary-general's special adviser for the prevention of genocide, told reporters here on Saturday that the perpetrators of the ongoing crimes in the eastern DRC must face justice.
"Armed groups, particularly the M23, FDLR and Mayi Mayi- affiliated militias, have been responsible for targeted killing of civilians, mass rape, forced recruitment, including recruitment of children among other violations. Ways must be found to stop these atrocities," he said.
The FDLR is a Rwandese militia charged with the 1994 Rwanda genocide in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred.
Regional leaders of the 11-member ICGLR, have met four times since July to end the fighting in the eastern DRC.
The leaders have agreed that a neutral international force be deployed in the eastern DRC charged with eliminating negative forces in the mineral-rich Central African country.
They have also set up a trust fund to support victims of the humanitarian crisis resulting from the flare.
Byamukama said all these efforts show that the region is determined to pacify the eastern DRC which has been plagued with decades of civil conflicts.
"UN knows the position of the region, what the region has said clearly is that they have the capacity and willingness to handle the situation at the regional level," he said.