The US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs is expected to meet Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila and other Congolese officials Thursday to address ongoing clashes between the government and the rebels in the restive North Kivu Province. Jendayi Frazer is not expected to meet representatives of the rebel National Congress for the Defense of the Congolese People (CNDP), a rebel faction loyal to renegade general Laurent Nkunda. Frazer will also be in contact with the leadership in neighboring Rwanda, which the DRC has accused of actively supporting the rebels, a charge Kigali denies. Washington is supporting United Nations efforts to bolster the UN Mission in the DRC force (MONUC), which has opened fire on rebel forces poised to capture Goma, the capital of North Kivu.

From the capital, Kinshasa, MONUC spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai tells reporter Peter Clottey that Frazer's arrival sends a strong message to the feuding parties to ease tensions.

"I think the visit of Miss Frazer today in the DRC is a good thing. First of all, she is coming from the United States, which is a permanent member of the Security Council. This shows that the United States is interested in what is going on in this country. And the second thing is that she would be able to meet with the different authorities here. And I'm sure they would pass on the message to them and she would show them that her country is interested in what is going on here and it would be interesting to see what happens after her visit," Mounoubai noted.

He said the US assistant secretary is expected to meet the UN special representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"She will also meet with the special representative of the UN secretary general, Mr. Alan Doss, to discuss the overall situation in the DRC and particularly what is going on in the eastern part of this country. You may recall that two weeks ago, Mr. Doss was before the Security Council to present a report about the situation in the DRC and requested for an additional force and other means in order for the mission to carry its mission in the best possible condition," he said.

Mounoubai said Washington's support is a significant boost to the efforts of the United Nations mission in the DRC.

"The United States plays a major role in financing different UN agencies that carry the humanitarian work. So a clear support expressed by a member of the US administration towards the end of what is going on and also to assist all the displaced persons is important because I'm sure that the agency would take advantage of the presence of Miss Frazer here to present to her an overall situation of the displaced people and of the humanitarian situation. And I think that the report that Miss Frazer is going to take back to her government would impact the financing of those agencies so that they would best assist all those displaced," Mounoubai pointed out.

He said the recent outburst of anger expressed by residents against the UN in the DRC emanates from deep frustration with the escalating clashes between the national army and the rebels loyal to renegade army General Laurent Nkunda.

"I think it is just a matter of perception, and also it is an added frustration that these people have been experiencing for the past year. In North Kivu, we have about 50 mobile military bases and none of those bases have moved since the fighting started. And each time there is a fight in the area, the first place where the population would go to find security and protection is to be around MONUC military bases, which shows that at least they trust MONUC," he said.

Mounoubai said the United Nations would not abdicate its responsibility of protecting the innocent civilians caught in the clashes between the government and the rebels.

"The people would like to see MONUC take up the task that should be carried on by the national forces. We are not here to fight. We are here to give peace a chance, and that is what we are trying to do. But they want us to be at the forefront of the fight against the rebels, and this is not our mandate," Mounoubai pointed out.