A regional summit on the conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo is under way in Nairobi. United Nations Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon called for an end to the fighting and warned that the conflict
risked spilling over into the wider sub-region. Derek Kilner has more
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined heads of
state from east and central Africa, as well as American and European
diplomats, for a summit aimed at putting a halt to the recent fighting
in eastern DRC between rebels led by Laurent Nkunda, and Congolese
government forces. Mr. Ban called on leaders in the region to put
pressure on Nkunda, who has launched a renewed offensive in August,
despite signing an agreement with the government in January.
leaders of Africa, you have an historic responsibility," he said. "This
is a critical moment for the Great Lakes region and for Africa as a
whole. We must put the cycle of violence behind us. We must build a
shared future of stability, peace, development and human rights for all
citizens of your countries. I am determined to work with you to realize
these urgent objectives. And I count on your leadership."
announced a unilateral cease-fire last week, after advancing to the edge
of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, but clashes have resumed
in recent days. The U.N. estimates that some 250,000 people have fled
their homes since August, bringing the total number of civilians
displaced in the region to over one million.
A major goal of the
summit will be to improve relations between Congolese President Laurent
Kabila and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Congo accuses Rwanda of
backing Nkunda's forces, while Rwanda and Nkunda say the Congolese
government is cooperating with the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu militia, many
of whose members participated in Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Nkunda claims
he is protecting the region's ethnic Tutsi community from attacks by
the Hutu militia.
Notably absent from the summit was Nkunda
himself. Nkunda has called for direct talks with the Congolese
government, but Congo has insisted that any discussion must follow an
existing negotiating framework involving all of the various armed
groups operating in eastern DRC.
The chairman of the African Union
Commission, Jean Ping, appeared to echo that position in explaining
"It is only the members of the Great Lakes who
have been invited plus a certain number of countries," he said. "But
you know that there you have also other groups who are fighting, like
The UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo, known by its
French acronym MONUC, has clashed with the rebels in recent weeks, and
has pledged to defend Goma from any attack by Nkunda's forces. But with
it's 17,000 troops spread across various parts of the vast country, the
force is overstretched. The UN's Special Representative to the DRC,
Alan Doss, said the mission had requested additional troops.
have asked for a temporary increase to help us deal with the current
situation," he said. "We'll see if the Security Council goes along with it we hope
they will. It's not just about numbers it's also about capabilities.
You can have soldiers but if they can't move around, they can't be
re-supplied it doesn't get you far."
On Friday, a group of NGOs
including Human Rights Watch and Oxfam called on the European Union and
other countries to contribute additional troops to the UN mission,
saying peacekeepers have been unable to halt attacks on civilians in