The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of
Congo (MONUC) says fresh clashes Tuesday night between government forces and
rebels have contributed to more than 150-thousand people
internally displaced. The report says Congolese army tanks pounded rebel-held
hilltops and repelled an attack on a military base in the east on Tuesday in
the latest round of fighting against rebels loyal to renegade army general
that recent rebel attacks on ordinary residents in the restive North Kivu
province had forced around 100-thousand civilians from their homes. But the
rebels have dismissed the accusation as a calculated attempt by MONUC, whom
they accuse of siding with President Joseph Kabila's government in the ongoing
MONUC spokesman Michel
Bonnardeaux tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Kinshasa that they
are finding protection for the internally displaced persons who have been
affected by the fighting.
"The fighting has been going
on for sometime and it is a matter of taking hills and losing them and so on.
Today's specific is that an attack that started yesterday by the rebel group on
government positions in Tongo, was somewhat repelled by government troops today
as they were able to take back the hilltops and take back some small localities
there," Bonnardeaux noted.
He denied rebel accusations
that MONUC has been aiding government troops to attack rebel positions.
"Well one would
have to go to the field to see that MONUC is not taking the government's side,
specifically, not since the Goma agreement that was signed back in January. Now
those are the same agreements calling for a peaceful solution to the conflict,
and it is MONUC'S position that those agreements need to be implemented by both
sides, both the government and one rebel group really that is holding out, all
the other rebel groups having signed on," he said.
Bonnardeaux said MONUC has
been encouraging both President Joseph Kabila's government and the rebels to
abide by the agreement.
"What needs to happen is
that both parties need to implement the deal, which they have already agreed to
and signed. And that involves what we call putting up the separations on where
the MONUC international peacekeeping force would be occupying those separation
zones between the two belligerents. And then the rebel groups are meant to go
to regrouping centers where they are to be either de-mobilized or integrated
into the army as they wish to do so," Bonnardeaux pointed out.
He said MONUC is maintaining
its objective to ensure ordinary civilians are protected.
"MONUC has a moral power, if
you want. So MONUC calls on the parties to respect their obligations and what
they have signed on to. So MONUC has multiple contacts at all levels, if you
wish, between the rebel groups and MONUC. So right there on the battleground,
MONUC is there and there is what we call an operational basis on the ground
that is actually usually caught in the crossfire. So there is contact taking
place from there all the way to the leadership level, if you wish, and that is
replicated on the government side with both the national army and government
authorities here in the DRC," he said.
Bonnardeaux reiterated the
UN Mission's objective in DRC, which aims to protect the lives of innocent
civilians who he said are often affected by incessant fighting.
"Absolutely, that is the
crux of our mandate. Our mandate puts first and foremost the civilian
population. So in our calls for peace, that is precisely what we are looking
for. We've noticed that every time fighting erupts, internally displaced people
tend to flock towards the MONUC and the United Nations basis because they know
that is where they can get protection. And that is what we are trying to
provide, protection for these internally displaced and we are trying to steer
them to less dangerous zones and eventually to safety," Bonnardeaux pointed