KINSHASA - A high-powered group of special envoys to the troubled heart of Africa were set Monday to assess the peace process in the conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, a UN statement said.
The envoys from the United Nations, African Union, European Union and United States were to meet in Kinshasa with Martin Kobler, head of the large UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO).
Their two-day visit is part of the ongoing international oversight of DRC's peace process, with a particularly focus on the east of the country, which has suffered more than two decades of strife and human rights abuses.
"The Envoys plan to meet with representatives of the government, civil society and the international community to hear first hand about the implementation of commitments to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework and what they can do to support further progress," the MONUSCO statement said.
The experts' oversight role arises from a pact signed by 11 African countries in Addis Ababa under UN auspices on February 24, 2013.
The signatories included Rwanda and Uganda, which border on the east of the vast DRC and have both been accused by Kinshasa and the United Nations of backing ethnic Tutsi Congolese rebels, allegations they deny.
The envoys to the central African Great Lakes region are Mary Robinson for the UN, Boubacar Diarra of the AU, Koen Vervaeke of the EU and Russ Feingold of the US.
The rebel force known as the March 23 Movement (M23) launched an uprising in April 2012 and went on to seize Goma, a provincial capital of about one million people, the following November. M23 fighters left the city under strong international pressure and were defeated by the army and a UN intervention brigade a year later.
On Sunday, the special envoys called for "the total surrender of all the fighters and ranking officers" of a different rebel group active in the Kivu provinces of eastern DRC, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Some older members of the ethnic Hutu FDLR are accused of taking part in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, when Hutu troops and militias massacred an estimated 800,000 people.
The FDLR is said to number between 1,500 and 4,000 members, according respectively to the United Nations and the Rwandan government. Its forces are accused of serious abuses against civilians in both North Kivu and South Kivu, including killings, rape, looting and theft, and the forced enlistment of child soldiers.
Under the Addis Ababa accord, the Kinshasa government undertook to introduce reforms in political, social and security policies, while the other nations pledged to give no assistance to any of the armed movements rife in the east of the DRC.
Last Friday, about 100 mainly young men from the FDLR surrendered and handed in their weapons in North Kivu after authorities gave them an ultimatum to go back to Rwanda or ask for political asylum.
Previous bids to disarm the FDLR have failed and the fighters who surrendered last week included none of a list of rebels sought for serious crimes by national and international prosecutors.
International envoys gather for peace mission in DR Congo