The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reports that “a precarious calm” has returned to North Kivu, especially the town of Sake, the scene of recent fighting between Government troops and rebel forces.
The Congolese armed forces (FARDC) and the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) have engaged in some intense clashes in Sake, which is about 20 kilometres from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
“The guns have fallen silent, and no clash has been reported during the day,” according to a news release issued by the UN mission, known as MONUC.
The recent fighting in the country’s eastern region 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.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the CNDP to accept the global disengagement plans provided for in the Actes, which was prepared by MONUC and accepted by the Government last week.
The UN humanitarian office said today that the fighting and insecurity in the eastern DRC has seriously impeded the delivery of aid to vulnerable populations. The hostilities have led to the displacement of civilians in North Kivu, with most of those forced to flee having already been displaced in the past year in previous waves of fighting.
At the same time, all parties to the fighting appear to be engaging in widespread looting of civilian infrastructure, including health centres and houses, in conflict-affected areas.
“Poor families in eastern Congo are not only being deprived of life-saving humanitarian assistance due to simple insecurity but are also being subjected to looting and common banditry,” said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes.
He stressed that all parties to the conflict should recall their obligations to guarantee unconditional and safe access to humanitarian organizations.
“Despite the conflict, they are also responsible for respecting civilian infrastructure and private property. Humanitarian aid is independent, impartial and neutral, and its disruption or manipulation by any of the parties to the conflict is quite simply contrary to international humanitarian law, for which those concerned should and can be held accountable,” Mr. Holmes added.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MONUC, Alan Doss, and Force Commander General Babacar Gaye took part in a meeting of the Steering Committee of the Amani Programme, set up to implement the January peace deal.
Today’s meeting, held in the South Kivu capital of Bukavu, focused on how to consolidate the ceasefire and the implementation of the disengagement plan.