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DR Congo opposed to removal from US AGOA list

Published date:
Thursday, 23 December 2010

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), through its Communication Minister Lambert Mende, has reacted angrily to the country's removal from the U. S. program of "African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)", a program which allows African countries to export products to the United States.

U.S. President Barack Obama decided on Tuesday to remove DR Congo from the list of AGOA program. Starting in January 2011, DR Congo will not be part of this commercial network and will lose its privileged partnership status in the United States.

While justifying the decision, the White House affirmed that the Congolese government had not made the necessary progress to respond to the AGOA criteria, especially in the area of human rights.

The U.S. authorities insist that the Congolese security forces and other armed groups continue to commit large scale human rights violations, including massive rape.

The White House says DR Congo is no longer eligible for AGOA benefits until further notice.

During a press conference held on Wednesday in Kinshasa and broadcast live on the national television, Mende said the Congolese government was angered by the measure taken by the U. S. authorities.

Responding to the accusations of the White House, he declared that the U.S. justifications to exclude DR Congo from AGOA were false because the country's armed forces are not accomplices of the armed groups that commit violations against the civilian populations.

The deterioration of the human rights situation in the east of DR Congo was due to the actions of the Western countries. He accused these countries of insisting that DR Congo welcomes Rwandan refugees who have now transformed themselves into armed rebel groups.

At the same time, Mende voiced disagreement with the French ambassador who termed DR Congo's human rights situation as "catastrophic."

The Congolese minister also denounced a human rights NGO, the Human Rights Watch, as "a manipulative organization."

"When we read the report from the Human Rights Watch, we do not see any evidence to show that DR Congo's Armed Forces (FARDC) recruited children into the army in North Kivu province. This is why we are saying that they are just manipulators," he said.

In a report released on Dec. 20, this international NGO indicated that minors from schools had been recruited into DR Congo's army in North Kivu.

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