A rebel leader has pledged security for humanitarian workers in the Ituri region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations Organization Mission in the country, known as MONUC, reported today.
The guarantee by Thomas Lubanga, leader of the Union of the Congolese Patriots (UPC), came at the end of talks yesterday in Bunia with MONUC chief Amos Namanga Ngongi, a spokesman for the Mission said at a press briefing. Mr. Ngongi had stressed the need for the humanitarian community to be allowed access to at-risk populations in order to bring them assistance.
"Mr. Lubanga reacted positively and promised to provide security guarantees for the [non-governmental organizations (NGOs)] working in the region," Hamadoun Touré said, adding that in order to defuse tensions in the region, a decision was also made to appoint a UN humanitarian coordinator in Bunia.
Meanwhile at UN Headquarters in New York, the Security Council voted unanimously to expand MONUC to a total of 8,700 military personnel, nearly double the current strength of 4,250 in all services and ranks.
The resolution also expressed deep concern over both the humanitarian situation and the intensification of ethnically targeted violence in the Ituri region. The text called on all parties to cooperate in the establishment of the Ituri Pacification Commission and requested Secretary-General Kofi Annan to increase the presence of MONUC stationed in the area as security conditions permit.