UN peacekeepers in DR Congo on alert amid signs of new rebel build-up

MONUC continues to reinforce its presence in North Kivu

23 December 2008 – The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has put bases in war-ravaged North Kivu province on high alert and is conducting additional patrols amid increasing concern at “clear evidence” of a build-up by mainly Tutsi rebels in key areas.

The Mission, known by its French acronym MONUC, called on the rebel Congrès national pour la Défense du people (CNDP) and other armed groups to refrain from threatening action and respect a cessation of hostilities in the province, where an upsurge of fighting between the CNDP, the Government army and various other forces has driven over 250,000 people from their homes since August.

“MONUC calls on all armed groups, particularly CNDP and PARECO/Mai Mai forces, to cease any build-up or movement of forces which may provoke renewed hostilities and the new displacement of populations,” the Mission said in a statement today, referring to another armed group.

MONUC is conducting additional patrols along the axes of Rwindi-Kanyabayonga-Nyanzale, and Rumangabo-Kilimanyoka-Kibat, and its bases in Masisi territory remain on high alert.

The Mission is also concerned about a reported clash today between CNDP and Mai Mai forces at Mai Moto. “The proximity of CNDP and Mai Mai forces, particularly near Ngwenda, and between FARDC troops and CNDP at Kibati also remains a source of tension in the province,” it added, referring to Government forces by their French acronym. It welcomed the FARDC’s continued observance of the cessation of hostilities that it had declared unilaterally.

“MONUC calls on all parties to refrain from threats or use of force and to spare no effort to avoid renewed fighting and stands ready to work with all parties on the ground to avoid a new outbreak of hostilities,” it added.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region Olusegun Obasanjo, who is leading talks between the Government and CNDP, reported that at the latest session last week the rebels refused to sign a draft cessation of hostilities agreement and declined to recommit themselves to their own unilateral ceasefire.

In a unanimous resolution yesterday, the Security Council condemned the CNDP for repeated military offensives which have caused massive displacement of populations in North Kivu, where some 800,000 people had already been uprooted before the current fighting.

In another conflict in the north-eastern part of the vast African nation, where the DRC, Southern Sudan and Uganda have launched a joint operation to flush out the rebel Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the UN and its humanitarian partners voiced concern today over the plight of some 60,000 persons uprooted in the Dungu area, of whom 6,000 have fled into Sudan.

Thirteen humanitarian organizations are still present in Dungu, including the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA).

The agencies are distributing food to thousands of people from pre-positioned stocks and a warehouse at the MONUC base in the Dungu airport. Humanitarian organizations on the ground are concerned about the need for protection of civilians and especially children who have been abducted by the LRA, and those civilians at risk of being caught in the crossfire during attacks.

The Security Council yesterday strongly condemned LRA attacks in the DRC and Southern Sudan and demanded that it immediately sign a previously negotiated peace accord ending the conflict that it launched in northern Uganda 21 years ago, and which it has since taken into the two neighbouring countries.


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