Calm returning to capital of DR Congo, says UN mission

26 March 2007 – The situation is relatively calm again inside Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), after two days of deadly clashes between Government forces and the security detail of former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, the United Nations mission to the country has reported.

Mr. Bemba, a member of the DRC Senate, has sought refuge in the South African Embassy, the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) reported on Saturday, while 96 members of his security detail have surrendered to UN peacekeepers at a centre in the capital.

A military spokesperson for MONUC said the centre, which is being secured by UN peacekeepers from Senegal – would remain open to allow Mr. Bemba’s guards to present themselves and to provide a place for medical care to the wounded.

At least 60 people were killed in the gun battles in central Kinshasa on Thursday and Friday, MONUC said, with civilians among the casualties. Many of the dead or wounded were members of the Congolese military, national police or Mr. Bemba’s security detail.

UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters today that the improving situation follows a telephone call late on Saturday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to DRC President Joseph Kabila in which Mr. Ban voiced concern over the violence and urged Mr. Kabila to ensure an immediate ceasefire and a return to dialogue.

MONUC said a sense of normality is gradually returning to Kinshasa, with traffic starting to circulate freely. But most shops in the city’s Gombe district, which experienced heavy looting during the two days of clashes, remained shut. The mission is making frequent military patrols of Gombe and other districts.

Last week’s gun battles come less than six months after Mr. Bemba lost the run-off round of landmark presidential elections to Mr. Kabila, the first such polls in more than four decades in the vast African nation.

The DRC is rebuilding following the end of a six-year civil war, widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II, which cost 4 million lives in fighting, hunger and disease.

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