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EU soldiers to secure humanitarian workers (Louis Michel)

(BRUSSELS2) The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Development, Louis Michel, who returned from a 48-hour trip between Kinshasa (DR Congo) and Kigali (Rwanda), had made an appointment with the press upon his arrival at 6:30 a.m. (a.m.). In fact, the plane was a little... early. So the impromptu press conference began a few minutes after 6:00 a.m., in the middle of the arrival hall at Zaventem airport. With the backdrop of vacationers returning from their distant stays. Suffice to say that at that time, the journalists present were not very fresh and could be counted on the fingertips – apart from the Belgian television media (Rtbf, Rtl, Vrt…) and Belga – only Radio France and yours truly ... But Louis Michel lent himself - with all the time he needed to the game of questions and answers. Excerpts…

After 48 hours of comings and goings, do you think a solution is possible?

Yes. I believe in a political solution. I spoke to Kabila (president of Congo) and Kagame (his Rwandan counterpart). They both agree to negotiate, with all the parties concerned – Burundi, Uganda, regional organizations. There is a positive dynamic that can be set in motion. The element that is changing is that Kinshasa is ready to discuss with everyone, including the CNDP (the movement of Tutsi rebel general Laurent Nkunda). But to succeed in the peace agreement, a “Nairobi 2” (*), we must avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Above all, it will be necessary to have international monitoring, to follow, step by step, the progress of the agreement, with resources and an agenda. The international community cannot disengage from this region which is a factor of stability not only for Congo but for the entire region and in Africa.

The Congo as in Darfur?

I refuse to make these kinds of comparisons. There is no gradation in the values ​​of violation of human rights. But we can say that the situation is comparable. I can see a difference. I believe that with a little more voluntarism from the parties, from the international community, we could achieve a solution. I am not sure that in Darfur it is possible as it is in Congo. (…) We know what needs to be done, we know the data, the agreement, where the framework is, the compromise, so we stop pretending that we don't know.

So is there a need for military intervention by the European Union?

If it is a military intervention to resolve the conflict, I do not believe in it. The advantage of a military force would turn into a disadvantage. This military presence would be considered a party to the conflict. If, on the other hand, it is a military force which consists of securing the work of humanitarians and NGOs – as proposed by Bernard Kouchner and the Belgian government – ​​I am for it. It's essential. We must allow NGOs to assist these tens of thousands of people who lack everything. The situation is dramatic. There are tens of thousands of people who lack everything. The Congolese army has fled, and we are witnessing an upsurge in the practice of looting and extortion of all kinds. We absolutely must help these populations. It will undoubtedly also be necessary to strengthen MONUC. I am not a specialist on this issue, but I believe that before having additional men, additional logistical resources are especially needed.

Are Europe's resources sufficient for humanitarian aid?

Humanitarian operators on the ground know very well that they only have one phone call to make and that they can decide instantly. The Commission has paid 800.000 euros and I can release an additional 3 million euros. It can go very quickly. Because the controls are carried out ex-post (a posteriori). I would like us to have the same speed for development aid. But that doesn't seem possible.

The force of the United Nations, MONUC, seems powerless, Rwanda seems involved? What is your feeling ?

We must avoid incriminating anyone. The Blue Helmets are doing a difficult job. we must support them. Generally speaking, anything that consists in exalting antagonisms, in pointing the finger at a possible culprit, is dangerous. It is not necessary to excite hatred, but to converge points of view.

(Comments collected by Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Long version of an article published in Ouest-France on Sunday

Photo © NGV

(*) An agreement was signed in Nairobi in November 2007 between Congo and Rwanda in particular to "eliminate the threat" constituted by the Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) who had taken refuge for fourteen years in the former Zaire.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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