13 May 2003

Secretary-General Asks Security Council to Prevent Further Deterioration of Dire Situation in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo

NEW YORK, 12 May (UN Headquarters) -- The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 10 May:

I am deeply alarmed by the deterioration of the security situation in Bunia. Thousands of civilians have fled their homes while militia groups are fighting for control of the town and engaged in extensive looting. The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) headquarters in Bunia has been attacked by militias, despite the fact that it is sheltering thousands of innocent civilians. Militias have also fired into crowds of displaced persons seeking shelter near Bunia airport.

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations yesterday informed the Security Council that nearly 700 United Nations troops had been deployed to Bunia, but stressed that, without decisive action, the situation might nevertheless spin out of control, leading possibly to the massive killing of civilians. I am therefore asking the Security Council to consider effective measures to prevent the situation from deteriorating with further loss of civilian lives.

I have called on the Government of Uganda to use its influence over militia forces in Ituri to maintain calm. As Ugandan troops continue to withdraw from the Ituri region, they must do so in a phased and orderly manner, with due respect for the protection of civilians.

I must commend the courage shown by MONUC personnel in Bunia, as well as by members of the United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations located there, who are trying to keep an elusive peace, despite overwhelming odds. My heart goes out to the innocent civilians who once again find themselves at the mercy of unruly militia. The international community must make every effort to quickly address this dire situation.

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