- Violation of a Congolese ceasefire by ethnic rebels on side of renegade army general, Laurent Nkunda, has culminated in some of worst fighting in weeks in eastern DRC, forcing UN mission to ready itself for an offensive.
UN Mission in DRC (MONUC) reported today that its attack helicopters have mounted reconnaissance flights and “are poised to respond to any and all eventualities” in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after rebel forces violated a ceasefire and seized a number of localities in some of the worst fighting in more than a week.
Strongly condemning latest violation of ceasefire by rebel National Congress for the Defence of the People, MONUC called on warring parties to uphold ceasefire and give ongoing political process a chance to succeed.
Heavily armed rebels are said to be moving further north and pushing government troops out of position, ignoring their leader's call for support of peace talks.
Latest fighting is said to have worsened humanitarian situation in eastern DRC with some more that 250,000 people said to be displaced since August and in urgent need for humanitarian assistance.
MONUC said it would support humanitarian organisations in relocating 60,000 displaced people in North Kivu province, now in potential line of fire. Other neighbouring towns are also said to be vulnerable, especially is rebels advance to city of Goma.
MONUC also said in a statement today it had deployed a civilian team to Kiwanja to evaluate situation and facilitate communication between population and mission troops.
“In the field of assistance humanitarians continue to organise and reinforce their intervention capacities,” MONUC said. Along with UN World Food Programme, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) received food and non-food products by air from the regional warehouse in Tanzania, and by road from Entebbe in Uganda. The distribution is being carried out in the six camps around Goma and in other centres.
Efforts to strike peace are still continuing with UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who has met with presidents José Eduardo dos Santos of Angola and Joseph Kabila of DRC, and later with Mr Nkunda in North Kivu.
“Laurent Nkunda engaged on two things in my presence: the respect of the ceasefire on the one hand and on the other, the maintenance of humanitarian corridors in order to give unconditional access to assist vulnerable populations,” Mr Obasanjo told reporters in Goma.
He also indicated that rebel leader raised demands, including integration of rebels in national army at appropriate rank and continued demand for direct discussions with government, without condition, on various issues, such as politics, economics and security.
Mr Obasanjo also said Mr Nkunda wants protection and security for all minorities in DRC without exception, in particular of those in the east.
Hostilities are said to have continued in east despite stabilisation in much of the rest of the vast country, which was torn by years of civil war that cost 4 million lives in fighting and attendant hunger and disease – widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II – before it ended earlier this decade, according to UN reports.
Mr Obasanjo and African Union co-facilitator Benjamin Mkapa were also in Nairobi, Kenya, today to brief that country’s President Mwai Kibaki, in his capacity as chair of International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, on their talks.
The peace initiative led by former Nigerian president, is aimed at ending weeks of renewed fighting that has put strain to efforts of reaching hundreds of civilians forced into fear of even running away from own shadows.
Conflict in eatern DRC has also brought renewed tension between Kinshasa and Kigali with accusations flying on Rwand's support of rebels, a charge dismissed by Rwandan officials as a fabrication.
"It's either exaggerated or distorted to imply Rwanda is holding a switch that will switch off Nkunda or that Rwanda initially switched him on," Rwandan president Paul Kagame was quoted by media reports on Monday at a news conference in Kigali.
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