Accessibility links

Breaking News

UN Tries to Negotiate Peace Between New DRC Army, Former Rebels - 2004-05-31

The United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo is trying to ease renewed tensions involving the new national army and former rebels in the east of the country.

The U.N. officials are trying to negotiate a cease-fire, after clashes between former rebels and soldiers of the Congolese army.

One group of about 1,000 fighters from the former Rwanda-backed rebel faction, the Congolese Rally for Democracy, has stationed itself about seven kilometers south of the Kavumu airport, near the town of Bukavu, on the Rwandan border. These men have not joined the new national army.

Another group allied to the same former rebel group was inside the town, but has now apparently returned to its barracks.

Those fighters, who have already joined the new army, clashed with other government soldiers last week, leaving at least 30 people dead, including some civilians. But U.N. officials say the town and the airport were both quiet on Monday, although the tension remains.

U.N. spokesman Sebastien Lapierre says the peacekeeping mission, known as MONUC, wants to avoid renewed civilian killings.

"What we're trying to do now is negotiate a cease-fire between the advancing forces and the national army forces that are in between the airport and the town," said Mr. Lapierre. "The idea is to prevent the entrance of advancing forces inside the town, which would lead to surely the insecurity for civilians. As you know, MONUC is here to protect the civilian population. So, our efforts now are geared toward preventing a clash of forces inside the town."

Thousands of civilians have already fled to Rwanda.

The French news agency, AFP, quotes the commander of the dissident soldiers, General Laurent Nkunda, as saying he took action to protect members of Bukavu's Banyamulenge ethnic minority. The Banyamulenge are Congolese Tutsis, who have had difficult relations with other people living in eastern Congo for decades.

U.N. peacekeepers, who are deployed both in Bukavu and at the nearby airport, have not been involved in the fighting.

A power-sharing peace deal negotiated last year provides for a unified national army. But several groups of former rebels have been reluctant to join, and have periodically disrupted the consolidation effort, even though their leaders are in the national reconciliation government.