Saturday, November 29, 2008

DRC News Update: Rebels Take Another Town; China Concerned Over Situation; Problems on the Zambian Border

DRC rebels take new town, says UN

Nov 28 2008 12:06

Rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have captured a new town in an area where they had clashed with pro-government rebels, the United Nations mission in the country said on Friday.

"There is a small CNDP presence in Ishasha," Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich, spokesperson for the UN mission in DRC (Monuc), said, referring to members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People rebel group.

"A Monuc patrol is in the process of travelling to the location," he said.

The moves came as UN special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo was set to meet this weekend with Congolese President Joseph Kabila and rebel chief Laurent Nkunda in a new peace bid.

The town is located along the Ugandan border, about 130km north-east of Goma, the capital of DRC's Nord-Kivu province, where the conflict between rebels led by Nkunda and government forces is centred.

The rebels said on Thursday they had taken control of the town.

In taking Ishasha, the rebels have now advanced more than 30km north in less than 24 hours.

About 13 000 people have fled across the border to Uganda over the last two days to flee fighting in the area, the UN's refugee agency said.

The rebels now control two Nord-Kivu border post towns on the Ugandan frontier. The towns are significant sources of revenue for provincial authorities because of customs duties.

The other town under their control is Bunagana, 60km north-east of Goma.

Tensions between Kinshasa and Nkunda boiled over in August, propelling more than 250 000 people towards refugee camps or into hiding in the bush, beyond the reach of aid agencies. -- AFP

Source: Mail & Guardian Online
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09:28, November 29, 2008

China concerned over situation in DR Congo

China is extremely concerned over the current situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), a senior Chinese diplomat said here on Friday.

"Judging from the current situation, a long-term process is needed in order to settle the situation and to effectively implement all signed agreements," said Li Baodong, Chinese ambassador to the UN Office in Geneva.

Li was addressing a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in the east of the DR Congo, where hundreds of thousands of people have reportedly displaced by fighting between government and rebel forces.

China supports UN and EU mediation efforts in the country, and it has been supportive of the peacekeeping process there since the beginning, he said.

He also expressed China's willingness to work together with the international community to achieve a long lasting peace in the region.

Source: Xinhua

Published on Taipei Times

Congo refugees flee to Uganda

FRESH SKIRMISHES: UN officials said about 13,000 people had fled to the frontier town of Isaha in the last two days after the latest hostilities broke out in the east of DR Congo

Saturday, Nov 29, 2008, Page 6

About 10,000 refugees fled across the border with Uganda on Thursday following fresh skirmishes between rebels and pro-government fighters in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said about 13,000 people had made for the frontier town of Ishasa over the last 48 hours, escaping hostilities pitting the main rebel army against Mai-Mai militia and exiled Rwandan Hutu fighters.

“UNHCR staff at the south-west Ugandan border town of Ishasha said that since Tuesday afternoon an estimated 13,000 Congolese refugees had crossed the border from the eastern province’s Rutshuru district, including some 10,000 on Thursday,” a statement said.

Yumiko Takashima, the leader of a UNHCR emergency team, said about 1,000 refugees were moved on Thursday to a safer location at Nakivale, some 350km to the east. Several thousand more were expecting to leave yesterday.

The new arrivals told UNHCR team members that they were fleeing fresh fighting in the area around Rutshuru.

“The assailants killed everybody in my village. They took the young boys with them and killed all the rest of the population,” said 25-year-old Daudi, who walked 60km from Kiwanga to the border, without specifying who the assailants were.

Rebels said their positions around Kiwanga were challenged by pro-Kinshasa allies.

“In the face of this threat, we took preventive action,” said Bertrand Bisimwa, spokesman for Tutsi ex-general Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), although Bisimwa underlined that there had been “skirmishes rather than fighting.”

He said the Mai-Mai and the Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda had been halted some 4km north of Kiwanja, which lies some 80km from the regional capital of Goma.

The Mai-Mai spokesman in Nord-Kivu Province, Didier Bitaki, said the CNDP was “trying to advance toward Ishasha.”

Bisimwa later said that Ishasa “is in our hands,” adding that “several days of [CNDP] military police operations” had secured the Kiwanja-Ishasa corridor.

The UN mission in DR Congo, known as MONUC, said on Wednesday that the CNDP had launched new military operations in the area, amounting to a “ceasefire violation.”

UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo will meet with Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Nkunda for a second time this weekend.

Obasanjo is due to be joined at talks by former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa. A senior Libyan foreign affairs official, Abdel Salam Triki, is also in town.

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council was also due to hold a special session yesterday to discuss the conflict.

Ahead of the session, called by western countries and campaigners, Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay urged an end to the “cycle of sexual violence, bloodshed and destruction” in the sprawling central African nation.

“Recent reports suggest an escalation of sexual violence in its most brutal forms — committed by all sides in the conflict, including soldiers belonging to the national army,” Pillay said.

“Thousands upon thousands of women have been raped over the past decade and hardly any of their attackers have been brought to justice,” he said.

DRC-ZAMBIA: Kivu fighting slows refugee repatriation

LUSAKA, 26 November 2008 (IRIN) - Fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is jeopardising a voluntary repatriation programme for Congolese refugees in neighbouring Zambia, a senior UN refugee agency (UNHCR) official has said.

"Just before the fighting erupted in the [eastern] Kivu region [of DRC], the number of refugees registering for voluntary repatriation in the Mwange and Kala camps [in northern Zambia] had shown a significant increase. But now, very few are coming forward to register, and even some of those who register are opting out at the last minute," said James Lynch, the UNHCR [UN refugee agency] country director in Zambia.

"Most of the refugees are able to obtain information on what is happening in the DRC through shortwave radios and other sources. What they glean, they share with other refugees in the camps."

UNHCR has been repatriating Congolese refugees, mostly to Katanga Province in southern DRC, since 2007. A total of 7,323 were repatriated in 2007 and some 9,001 returned this year; a further 11,572 refugees were expected to repatriate before the end of 2008.

When clashes broke out recently in DRC between rebels loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda and government forces, UNHCR said the fighting would not affect the repatriation programme, as Katanga was some distance from the conflict zone.

"But [now] the refugees are citing fear of the conflict spreading from eastern Congo to other areas as the reason for not registering for voluntary repatriation ... since reports of the resumption of the armed conflict in eastern Congo began to come in, numbers [of refugees willing to repatriate] have gone down," Lynch said.

Zambia is home to some 45,253 Congolese refugees; of these, 28,571 reside in camps and settlements, 1,682 in urban areas, and an estimated 15,000 are self-settled.

A fluid situation

Ronnie Shikapwasha, Zambia's chief government spokesperson, this week announced that the country was preparing for a major influx of refugees from its giant northern neighbour.

"Zambia is ready to welcome refugees from DRC. It is a fluid situation; naturally, it will affect Zambia. A number of refugees will start trickling to Zambia and we will have to work out a situation where the United Nations, under the UNHCR, should be able to help looking after the refugees," Shikapwasha told the local media.

A possible new influx would exert even more pressure on the UNHCR, already struggling after the UN World Food Programme announced that a funding shortfall was forcing it to cut feeding programmes to vulnerable refugees.

Zambia also hosts thousands of asylum seekers from Angola, Rwanda, Burundi and Somalia.

Report can be found online at:
This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Pan-African News Wire

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