Renewed fighting in eastern DR Congo alarms Secretary-General

WFP carrying out an assessment mission in Rutshuru district, north of Goma

6 November 2008 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced deep concern at fresh fighting in the violence-wracked North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and urged all armed groups to get behind efforts to broker a political solution to the current crisis in the region.

Fighting broke out two days ago in the Rutshuru area between the National Congress in Defence of the People (known as the CNDP), a militia led by former general Laurent Nkunda, and a mixed group of Coalition of Patriots in the Congolese Resistance (PARECO)/Mayi-Mayi militia.

The CNDP has also reportedly attacked Congolese military positions in the Nyanzale area this morning, despite the ceasefire announced by the militia last week. Fighting was also under way in Miyanzali, a town now entirely under rebel control, according to the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC (known as MONUC).

“The Secretary-General calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of forces to positions held prior to the resumption of fighting on 28 August,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement, referring to the start of the latest broad wave of violence that has displaced as many as 250,000 Congolese in the far east of the impoverished country.

The statement added that Mr. Ban “urges the armed groups involved in the ongoing fighting to support the current efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in the eastern DRC and to avoid activities that result in the further displacement and suffering of the civilian population.”

The Secretary-General is travelling today to Nairobi, Kenya, to attend a United Nations-backed high-level summit tomorrow aimed at ending the crisis.

He is scheduled to meet with DRC President Joseph Kabila and with President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, which borders North Kivu. The leaders of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Africa are also slated to attend the summit, which is being hosted by the African Union.

MONUC reported today that CNDP fighters have captured Nyanzale and Kikuku villages and are actively seeking new territory in violation of the ceasefire it declared last week.

UN aid officials are identifying some of the massive population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) at camps and spontaneous sites across North Kivu. All schools in the combat zone have closed, and some are now reportedly occupied by IDPs.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) is stepping up its relief efforts across both North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, where some 2.5 million Congolese need assistance.

The agency reported that it has taken receipt of 10 tons of medicines, which are expected to benefit at least 60,000 people in North Kivu for a month. Norway has supplied 30 tons of drugs as well, while Italy has increased its supply of medicines and other health supplies.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has started distributing food in six IDP camps in Kibati and elsewhere, which are home to an estimated 135,000 people.

Meanwhile, in nearby Orientale province, which borders Uganda and southern Sudan, the entire population of the town of Dungu – or about 57,000 regular residents, as well as 6,000 IDPs – has fled due to attacks by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) last weekend. Aid workers have also evacuated Dungu, and access to the town is restricted because of insecurity on the local roads and poor infrastructure.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said a vast area of about 10,000 square kilometres, stretching from the western edge of Garamba National Park to the border with Sudan, has now been depopulated because of recent LRA attacks.

The LRA, which has fought Ugandan Government forces since the mid-1980s, is notorious for its use of child soldiers and its brutal attacks against civilians. Its fighters move frequently across the porous border between northern Uganda, southern Sudan and the north-eastern DRC.


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