Global Policy Forum

UN Urges DRC Rebels to Lay Down Arms

Agence France-Presse
November 26, 2007

A senior United Nations official has called on armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) troubled Nord Kivu region to lay down their arms and reintegrate into the regular army, a statement said on Monday. The UN secretary general's special envoy to the vast African country, Ross Mountain, also welcomed a commitment signed by DRC and Rwanda, which borders Nord Kivu, to stabilise the region.

Mountain, who coordinates humanitarian aid in the region, made his appeal from Goma, Nord Kivu's main city where he assessed the security and humanitarian situation over the weekend. He visited displaced people in camps at Mugunga and Buhimba, not far from Goma, where a total of 45 000 refugees have been accommodated.

Most of them fled their homes after fighting broke out between insurgents loyal to disgraced general Laurent Nkunda and the Congolese armed forces. The statement quoted Mountain as saying the November 10 commitment by DRC and Rwanda to help stabilise Nord Kivu was an "important step ahead towards peace in the area".

It does not aim at only the Rwandan Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) "but at all the negative forces in eastern [DRC], including the dissidents of ex-general Laurent Nkunda", he added. He said he hoped that "the armed groups will understand the immense suffering which would be inflicted on their communities and all the population if they persist in their refusal to surrender".

Civilians must not be targeted and endangered, he added. Intense fighting between Nkunda's 4 000 men and the armed forces of the DRC's 20 000 has been shaking eastern Nord-Kivu province near the border with Rwanda for weeks. Nearly 400 000 civilians have been displaced by fighting in Nord-Kivu since the end of last year, according to the UN, in addition to about 800 000 who fled their homes following previous clashes.

Villagers have been displaced by fighting not only between the army and Nkunda, who claims to be protecting the minority Congolese Tutsi population, but also between Mai-Mai militia and Hutu rebels from Rwanda, who are hostile to Nkunda. The UN has stepped up its criticism of Nkunda in recent days, leading the renegade general to accuse the world body's mission in DRC of siding with government forces and warn of retaliation.

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