Fresh clashes in DRCongo

November 9, 2008 12:00 am

, KINSHASA, November 9 – Fresh fighting broke out between rebels and government troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, United Nations sources said, as Angola denied reports it had deployed troops to Congo.

The latest clashes involved government troops (FARDC) and the rebels of the CNDP led by renegade general Laurent Nkunda, the spokesman for the UN mission in Congo (MONUC) Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Paul Dietrich told AFP.

"There have been heavy weapons clashes since 5:00 am (0300 GMT) this morning," said Dietrich.

The fighting was concentrated at Ngungu, some 60 kilometres (35 miles) west of Goma, the provincial capital of Nord-Kivu, which is on the border with Sud-Kivu, he added.

"Thousands of people are arriving at the MONUC base at Ngungu" to take shelter from the fighting, he said.

Bertrand Bisima, spokesman for the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), said he did not know of the clashes.

The fighting that has flared up since August between rebel and government forces, in violation of a January ceasefire, has so far been limited to Nord-Kivu.

Ngungu was the scene of clashes six weeks ago and is on the southwestern edge of the territory controlled by the rebels.

In Johannesburg, a member of the Angolan delegation at a meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) denied reports that their troops had been deployed to DR Congo.

On Saturday, a UN peacekeeping officer near the front line in the conflict who requested anonymity had told AFP that Angolan troops had been seen the previous day fighting beside government forces against the rebels.

But the source with the Angolan delegation told AFP Sunday: "There are no Angolan troops in the DRC."

UN spokesman Dietrich had earlier denied there were foreign troops in the country, but did say there was "military cooperation" between Congo and Angola.

"There are perhaps Angolan (military) instructors in country," he said Saturday.

Sunday’s renewed fighting is the first since the call for a ceasefire in eastern Congo was made on Friday at an international summit in Nairobi.

The summit also called for the creation of humanitarian corridors, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the conflict could spread.

Elsewhere in Nord-Kivu province, Kibati, to the north of Goma, was quiet for the second day running, after clashes Friday. A buffer zone of about a kilometre (1,100 yards) separated the two sides.

The war in eastern Congo has pitted Nkunda’s rebels against government troops, local pro-government Mai Mai militia and a third force: Hutu fighters including some who were implicated in the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

It has created a humanitarian catastrophe, with at least 250,000 people forced to flee their homes by the end of August. The continuing violence has hampered efforts to deliver aid to them.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe backed calls Sunday for a stronger mandate for UN peacekeepers to deter the violence.

"We call for an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian assistance to the displaced people," he added, speaking at the start of the SADC summit.

"We firmly believe that there is no military solution to the problem," Motlanthe said.

Pope Benedict XVI added his voice Sunday to the calls for peace, denouncing the "bloody clashes" and "atrocities" committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo and called for a return to peace, during his weekly Angelus prayer.



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