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UN Special Envoy Arrives in Democratic Republic of Congo


The United Nations Special Envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Olusegun Obasanjo, has arrived in Kinshasa seeking to end the renewed fighting in the east. The visit comes as rebels take another town near the Ugandan border and relief officials struggle to deliver emergency supplies to thousands of people displaced by the violence. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our bureau in Johannesburg.

United Nations officials said Special Envoy Olusegun Obasanjo would meet in Kinshasa with Congolese President Joseph Kabila and representatives of the five member nations of the U.N. Security Council. He then is to travel to North Kivu province to meet with rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.

A fragile ceasefire signed earlier this year broke down in August leading to renewed fighting between Nkunda's forces, government troops and several rebel militia's allied with the Kinshasa government. All sides reportedly have committed atrocities and the fighting has displaced one-quarter million people.

The spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Congo, Madnodje Mounoubai says the situation is disturbing.

"For the past three days there have been attacks all over North Kivu, in Rutshuru, in Masisi [north of Goma], he said. "The ceasefire is no longer holding in those areas so we are very worried about the future."

U.N. officials Friday confirmed that Nkunda's forces had seized the town of Ishasha near the border with Uganda, causing some 13,000 residents to flee into Uganda.

The U.N. Security Council this week approved a request to send 3,000 additional peacekeepers to Congo. They are to join the 17,000 troops already there, 5,000 of which are deployed in the east at 35 mobile bases. But details have yet to be worked out, leading to calls for the European Union to send forces.

U.N. spokesman Mounoubai notes that before the fighting erupted there already were one million internally displaced people, or IDP's, in the region. He says the latest violence has only worsened the humanitarian tragedy.

"The humanitarian organizations, the U.N. agencies, they have received enough food to be able to assist those additional IDP's," said Mounoubai. "The problem they have on the ground is that there is not enough security for them to be able to send this assistance to the displaced."

He says the largest camp, Kibati, lies in the conflict zone and as a result is being moved to a safer area.

An estimated three million Congolese died during two civil wars in the mid-1990s. A peace agreement several years ago ended most of the violence and brought national elections two years ago. But it failed to end hostilities in parts of eastern Congo.