Intense fighting broke out yesterday between the army and rebels loyal to the former general Laurent Nkunda in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with the army using rocket launchers and other heavy artillery, the United Nations peacekeeping mission reported today.
To ensure that civilians were not harmed, the peacekeepers interceded with Congolese troops who agreed to cease fire by the end of the day. The fighting took place in Kirotshe, a town near Goma, which has seen several fierce battles in recent days.
Meanwhile, UN humanitarian agencies and international non-government organizations (NGOs) are working to restore the delivery of essential medical supplies and services in North Kivu province, of which Goma is the capital, and South Kivu, where delivery was disrupted by the outbreak of hostilities in late August, leading to the displacement of some 100,000 people.
The movement of humanitarian personnel and relief workers has been greatly affected by the prevailing climate of suspicion. Health facilities have also been looted, leaving the population in even more precarious living conditions.
The fighting has been some of the worst in more than a year and a violation of the Actes d’engagement signed by the parties in January. Hostilities have continued in the east despite stabilization in much of the rest of the vast country, which was torn by years of civil war.
At a session in Goma today, the Government approved global disengagement plans provided for in the Actes as prepared by the UN Mission, which is known as MONUC.
“What matters now is action,” said Alan Doss, UN envoy in DRC, urging all concerned to redouble their efforts for a return to peace. “Time is passing and time is of the essence for thousands of displaced people who must return home in full security.” The disengagement must now be presented to the armed groups.