Tag Archives: MONUC

UN envoy berates Nkunda for breaking ceasefire

Although the ICCN has been able to return to the Gorilla sector of the Virunga National Park and initiate a census of mountain gorillas, the political situation and humanitarian situation remains serious. Refugees are being moved by the UN Peace keeping force MONUC from Kibati camp to Mugunga camp west of Goma, moving them away from the conflict frontline for their own protection.

On the political front things seem to be deteriorating. The UN Special envoy, president of Nigerial Olegusun Obasanjo met for a second time with Nkunda yesterday but the visit had not provided any “clear answers” on how to move forward, said Bertrand Bisimwa, spokesman for Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People, or CNDP.

According to Bloomberg website, the former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who is accompanying Obasanjo said that direct talks were unlikely. In response, the CNDP has reiterated a threat to directly confront the government and go to war if the government doesn’t agree to talks outside the so-called Amani program.  

Nkunda has publicly requested direct talks with the DRC president, Joseph Kabila but Kabila has insisted that any talks are held within the Amani process which Nkunda agreed to in January this year.  Amani, which means “peace” in Swahili, was set up by the government after a January cease-fire deal between the government and more than 20 armed groups, including the CNDP.

During the meeting on Saturday, Obasanjo apparently berated Nkunda for breaking the cease-fire last week when he initiated a new offensive along the border with Uganda which saw over 30,000 refugees cross at Ishasha.  In the last week Nkunda’s rebels captured two border posts and a town last week.

According to this article on Associated press Obasanjo is disappointed with Nkunda’s behaviour but Nkunda continues to insist that the cease-fire does not apply to foreign forces and said he will continue to protect ethnic Tutsis from Hutu fighters who fled to Congo from Rwanda after that country’s 1994 genocide.

Ian Redmond – Another delay and a new fish

August 27th – The MONUC flight to Kinshasa was on an elderly Eastern-bloc plane but was straightforward, with a two-hour stop in Kisangani.   I was swapping gorilla stories with a lady who investigates allegations against MONUC soldiers when my phone rang – it was the Korean TV company with whom I had originally expected to be travelling west to Kinshasa and Brazzaville.   They still hope to make their documentary, but the chances of their timetable overlapping with mine were dwindling with each passing day.  I do hope they make it eventually.

The United Nations Environment Programme post-conflict unit has a new office in DRC, having been asked by the Minister of the Environment to assist with development of environmental policies in this critical period of national reconstruction.   The unit kindly sent a driver to meet me at Kinshasa airport and whisk me to the Angolan Embassy, arriving at 14.02.   I hoped the Embassy might just be opening after lunch but no – it closed at 14.00 hours, and the doorman wasn’t even able to give me a visa application form.  “Come back tomorrow at 9.00am,” he said.   Next door, the Congo Brazzaville Embassy was still open and much more welcoming; the Consul recalled my earlier visits years ago, and asked if I was still working for the apes.  I gave him a YoG sticker and he gave me a multiple entry visa (how’s that for a win-win).   If I couldn’t go to Angola next, at least I now had a second option.

Whilst in Kinshasa, I hoped to meet the Minister of Environment, Nature Conservation and Tourism, H.E. José Endundo Bononge.  It turned out he was expecting me thanks to the head of ICCN – the DRC parks department – Pasteur Cosma Wilungula, who gave a YoG interview from his perspective, then led me upstairs to the minister’s office.  As the man responsible for the largest proportion of the Congo Basin’s forests and watersheds, Minister Endundo holds one of the major keys to future climate stability in his hands.   He spoke movingly of his personal experiences meeting gorillas, when taking ambassadors from many nations to visit Virunga and Kahuzi-Biega National Parks, and of his hopes for the Climate Conference in Copenhagen this December.

DRC Environment Minister José Endundu Bononge welcomes Ian Redmond for YoG talks, Kinshasa. Photo Ian Redmond.

Back at the UNEP offices, I was delighted to meet up with Ed Wilson, one of the founding fathers of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) as he was preparing to leave.  Our paths had last crossed some 20 years ago, and we resolved not to leave it so long until our next meeting. Among the group enjoying a farewell drink with Ed was Dr Melanie Stiassny, curator of fish at the American Museum of Natural History, who was in Kinshasa working with a group of students on the extraordinary diversity of fish in the River Congo.  There was space at the house they were using, and so I found myself waking up the next day beside the Kinsuka Rapids.

Fish and gorillas: coming up soon…

Read Ian’s previous post here!

Ian Redmond – Mgahinga National Park office and GO Kisoro

August 26th – The 5.30am bus to Kisoro was again more Matatu than Express, so it was mid-morning when we pulled into Kisoro, the nearest town to the DRC border. A throng of motorcycle taxis vied for my custom, and I squeezed past them and chose one on the edge of the pack. Mounting it with my rucksack on my back and placing my camera-bag on the petrol tank, we lurched off to the Mgahinga National Park office.

The man behind the desk seemed a bit bemused when I pulled out a video camera (but there was a YoG poster behind him, so I had to get the shot). He called for a colleague from the back office whose face split into a broad grin when he saw me. We had met eight years before, when I brought the first Discovery Initiatives (a partner of the UNEP Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) ) gorilla safari, and left a copy of Eyewitness Gorilla at the park education centre. He gave a smiling YoG interview and I said goodbye, apologising for the brevity of my visit, and crossed the road to the Kisoro Gorilla Organization Resource Centre.

Wooden scooters are an important means of transportation, Picture Melanie Virtue

The staff couldn’t have been more helpful, letting me send some urgent emails and offering much-needed tea and biscuits. They told me (and the YoG video) of their respective activities and I was pleased to pass on a copy of the BBC Natural World documentary ‘Titus the Gorilla King’ kindly provided by Tigress Films for such purposes. As a final favour, they told me to pay off my motor-cycle taxi and drove me to the Bunagana border in the elderly but much more comfortable GO vehicle.

Charcoal superstore beside road in Uganda. Picture Ian Redmond.

Entering the DRC is often a lengthy procedure, and the border officials couldn’t quite understand why, given my interest in gorillas, I was not going to see the gorillas in the Virunga NP (now that tourism has resumed, that is what most white people cross here for on day trips). I explained about the YoG and my mission, and one officer invited me into his office. Here we go, I thought, I wonder how much this is going to cost me… but once he had me seated, he explained he was concerned about the smuggling of endangered species across the border around here, and was there someone who could help him stop it? Wow! “Mais oui, bien sur!” I said, and promised to pass on his name to various colleagues.

Not so Easy Rider

Outside, the driver of the only four-wheeled vehicle in sight said he’d take me to Goma for $200, but a young motorcyclist with wrap-around shades agreed to do it for $20 plus my last few Uganda shillings and Rwandan Francs. “D’accord” I said, and climbed aboard, again with my rucksack on my back but with my camera-bag wedged between us, there being not enough room on the tank. I immediately noticed an important difference between Ugandan and Congolese motorbike taxis. In Uganda, there is usually a large rack or padded seat behind the pillion passenger – very practical. The Congolese love of style, however, means that every bike I saw between Bunagana and Goma (and Goma is now Motorbike City!) had the same swish design with all lines sweeping up to a small curved handle for the pillion passenger to hold.

Goma is a bustling city in a fertile and densely populated region. Picture Melanie Virtue.

Never mind that everyone in Africa wants to carry more than a vehicle can cope with – looking cool is more important. I struggled to perch the base of my rucksack on the handle and hang on every time my driver accelerated, but had to shift positions every few minutes as muscles complained at the ridiculous workload they were being asked to do – whilst looking cool and waving at incredulous pedestrians, of course, as we zoomed downhill.

YoG Ambassador en route to Goma via motorbike taxi, DRC. Picture Ian Redmond.

The road was end-stage degraded tarmac – bumpy, with loose gravel, pot-holes and – every time we passed another vehicle or (rarely) were overtaken by one – clouds of dust. To save fuel my driver, Jean-de Dieu, would switch off the engine on the downhill stretches and so sometimes we were almost silently coasting downhill – zero carbon motorcycling – which felt fantastic until jolted by the next pot-hole or lump of volcanic rock! I’d forgotten just how far it is from Bunagana to Goma, and after two hours or so, I felt as if I’d had a serious workout.

Goma airport was partly covered under lava in 2002, the plane on the bottom is stuck. Picture Melanie Virtue.

Never mind, I thought, it is good cross-training for the Great Gorilla Run I have signed up to do on 26th September. I’d learned about cross-training during my somewhat inept preparations for my one and only marathon five years ago . The GGR is only 7km, but involved hundreds of people running through London in gorilla suits! Please be among the first to sponsor me a ‘Darwin’ or two (note: a £10 note has a portrait of Charles Darwin on it, and in honour of his bicentenary I propose to run inspired by the Victorian cartoon which showed Darwin’s head on an ape body). I plan to knuckle-walk/run for as long as possible, but if that is too much of a Slog4YoG and my back protests, I’ll evolve a bi-pedal stance and Jog4YoG like the other runners – maybe you can place bets on how many km I manage quadrupedally?

The road took us across the now empty green plains of Kibumba.  In the mid-1990s there had been a refugee city of several hundred thousand people here and I could hardly believe how it had changed since my last visit during that time.   The exodus of so many families fleeing the Rwandan civil war and genocide made this spot an epicentre of human misery in 1994.   I was there a few days later with Dieter Steklis of DFGFI and a BBC film crew, looking for friends and colleagues to help them return home; none of us will ever forget the sight of thousands of blue UNHCR canvas shelters in pouring rain, each one housing a family. 

Kibumba, Rwandan refugee camp (population c.250,000), 15km north of Goma, DRCongo (then Zaire), near Parc National des Virungas, August 1994. Picture Ian Redmond.

On two subsequent visits to bring clothing bundles from kind donors, I was amazed by how industrious people had used jagged volcanic rocks to build semi-permanent homes, weddings were taking place, babies being born – communities making the best of a terrible situation until their repatriation.   Now, the land has been reclaimed by ICCN for the Virunga World Heritage Site, and there is little sign of the refugee city – but there is hardly a tree standing either!   It will take decades for the forest to re-grow, but it is already green; vegetation here is quick to colonise newly cooled lava flows, so there are lots of pioneer plant species to take root in the cleared ground.

Kibumba refugee camp locality in 2005, being reclaimed by the forest. Photo Melanie Virtue.

Clinging on with my left hand, I fumbled my video camera out of my jacket pocket and tried to grab a few images to compare with my 1994 photos; unfortunately the jarring was so extreme at this point the camera kept turning itself off to protect the hard-drive (where’s my trusty OM1 when I need it?).

No MOP, no flight

We finally pulled up at the entrance to Goma Airport, guarded by men in blue helmets behind sandbags. Easing my wobbly legs off the bike I paid Jean de Dieu, picked up my kit and tried to walk normally into the busy MONUC departure area. There was a flight to Kinshasa scheduled for 1500 hours and it seemed as though my timing was perfect, except I soon learned I couldn’t board without a MOP, whatever that stands for, and none of the military check-in staff with clip-boards had my name on their list. People were complaining about the flight being over-booked, and I saw army top brass being turned away, so I realised I wasn’t going to Kinshasa that day.

Eventually I was directed to an office behind rolls of razor-wire where a delightful young lady called, appropriately, Santa, found the email from UNEP-CMS, who together with UNEP/GRASP and WAZA is behind the whole Year of the Gorilla campaign, with my flight request, called up someone on high and smiled saying, “You are on the flight first thing tomorrow morning.” Who says that Santa only gives gifts at Christmas?

Goma airport, airplane trapped by lava, Picture Melanie Virtue.

She printed out my MOP (effectively a MONUC ticket) and I registered it in another office at the airport. I called Tuver (from Gorilla Org.) and he kindly agreed to drive out to the airport and bring me into town (another motorbike ride – aagh!). It was frustrating to lose half a day but pleasant, while waiting for Tuver, to sit quietly on a lump of volcanic rock by the side of the road watching other people bouncing along on motorbikes.

Several people helpfully told me how filthy my face was from the dusty ride and two separate immigration officials just had to come over to check my papers – it being almost unheard of for a lone mzungu to sit on a rock beside the road. The second was more curious than officious, and it turned out he knew many of the conservationists in town, which is how I ended up having supper with Urbain Ngobobo, who works for the Frankfurt Zoological Society project, assisting ICCN in training park guards and trying to control the illegal charcoal trade.

Mount Nyiragongo towers over Goma, Picture Melanie Virtue.

All the way to Goma I’d been passing vehicles – from the ingenious, home-made wooden scooters pushed by boys to huge trucks piled with sacks and topped by passengers – all bringing fuel for the city’s cooking fires. Some of it may be legal, but much of it is illegal and destroying the forests of the Virunga National Park. The trade is estimated to be worth $30 million per year, and unsurprisingly, the organised crime ring behind it is resisting with lethal force attempts to enforce the law– even killing several gorillas in 2007 . To find out more about a project aiming to tackle the threats of charcoal trade and deforestation, click here.

Read Ian’s previous post here!

MONUC seeks to ammend it’s mandate

Many people inside and outside of the DR Congo are frustrated wtih the failure of the United Nations Peace keeping force to protect civilians, and halt the conflict that is pushing the situation towards a regional war.

The Monuc Website has revealed the following development

“The UN Security Council has discussed, on 27 November 2008, the possibility of amending the mandate of the UN Mission in DR Congo. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the DRC, Alan Doss attended the meeting”.

and 

“The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the DRC and MONUC’s Chief, Alan Doss highlighted the need for addressing the root causes of the conflict, which, according to him, have never been dealt with. He applauded the current efforts by the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, appointed by the UN Secretary- General as Special Envoy on the Great Lakes region. Many other stakeholders joined efforts, including the representative of the Russian Federation.

DRC’s representative acknowledged and repeated that the Nairobi and Goma processes were the only “reliable framework” for the restoration of peace to a region plagued by crisis he attributed to “a warlord who continues to defy the international community in all impunity…”.

We should recall that the UNSC resolution 1843 of 20th November authorized a temporary increase of MONUC’s military and police strengths to enable it to put an end to the crisis in North Kivu. The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General said the extra troops will not be deployed for at least two months.”

Read more on the Monuc website here 

Emergency appeals

While President Obasanjo of Nigeria was been in talks with Laurent Nkunda to end the crisis in the Congo,  Nkunda’s heavy fighing was taking place. The UN peace keeping force has denounced the violations of the ceasefire agreement, but that seems to be a tootless threat.  Nkunda has repeatedly refused to cooperate with MONUC who he claims is pro government.

As a result, the humanitarian crisis continues to deepen in eastern Congo and IDP camps are being moved to protect those seeking shelter by getting the camps out of the line of fire. The virunga national park rangers are amongs thtose internally displaced people living in a hellish camp.  This article in the New York Times describes a tragic situation where rangers admit rying to eat leaves – afterall that is what gorillas survive on.

 Once again we appeal to you to donate any amount on this blog to help those rangers and their families.

Its hard not to despair about the situation in Congo – who should we be supporting, who are the good guys? Here’s an interesting article by Neil Campbell of Reuters

“Reinforcing What? The EU’s Role in Eastern Congo”,
Neil Campbell in Reuters: The Great Debate

17 November 2008
Reuters: The Great Debate

“Unacceptable and murderous.” Those were the words French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner chose to describe the situation in north eastern Congo at a press conference after October’s monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers. Sadly, Congo was not even on the agenda of that meeting.

In the following weeks, Laurent Nkunda’s rebels advanced on Goma, displacing up to 300,000 people; the Congolese army went on a spree of looting, raping and killing in that town; and there was a double massacre in Kiwanja on 4 November, first by pro-government Mayi Mayi militia, then by Nkunda’s rebels against suspected Mayi Mayi loyalists.

At the next meeting of EU foreign ministers, on 10 November, Congo at last made it to the agenda. But the European response to the crisis in central Africa is not encouraging. EU military assistance was not completely counted out in their agreed statement, but turning a general call for “reinforcement of cooperation between the EU, its member states and MONUC [the UN force]” into any specific reinforcements on the ground is far from straightforward.

For now, the EU has chosen the diplomatic route, pressing for a political solution within the framework of two key agreements signed over the past year. The November 2007 Nairobi agreement provides for normalisation of relations between Congo and Rwanda, disarmament of Rwandan Hutu rebels in Congo – including some perpetrators of the 1994 genocide – and ending Rwandan support to Congolese Tutsi insurgent Nkunda. The January 2008 Goma agreement outlines a ceasefire, voluntary demobilisation of combatants and the “Amani” peace process between the government, Mayi Mayi militias and Nkunda’s rebels.

On the one hand, an international push behind these deals is welcome. The current escalation in violence resulted in part from international complacency once these agreements were signed, despite the best efforts of the EU’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes region, Roland van de Geer.

Unfortunately, the EU’s recent track record of top-level diplomacy does not give much confidence the 27-country Union will stick together on this issue. Kouchner was the first to call for EU military intervention in Congo. The EU’s chief diplomat, Javier Solana, quickly rejected the idea, the Belgians came out in support, and the British were skeptical. Meanwhile visits to the region by van de Geer, commissioner Louis Michel, and Kouchner with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband left no impression of a unified front. It is not clear if Miliband’s primary objective was conflict prevention or Commonwealth enlargement with Rwanda. And Solana was not even allowed on the plane.

Diplomacy by others may prove more coherent. The UN Secretary General appointed an African heavyweight as his special envoy. Former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo was then joined by Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, the African Union’s representative, as facilitators of the Nairobi and Goma agreements at the regional summit in Nairobi last Friday. Obasanjo and Mpaka could learn from the Europeans’ mistakes and initiate a clear division of labour. The former military man Obasanjo should concentrate on the Nairobi agreement and disarmament and reintegration of militias, while Swahili speaking Mkapa should concentrate on other aspects of the Goma process and the Amani peace-building program.

But the EU could still offer practical and immediate assistance. Despite the deficit in political will for the military option, there are possibilities the EU should explore. Europeans could temporarily secure Goma and its airport, allowing the UN forces to concentrate on security in the surrounding areas of Rutshuru and Masisi.

Sure, the EU needs to focus on its commitment to the political solution and ensure that there is one coherent EU message. The best way to protect civilians is a return to the agreements, and by assisting the UN with a specific short-term security objective – allowing the UN some breathing space to fulfill its wider mandate – the EU can play an important role towards that political solution, and reinforce its diplomatic message with real and visible commitment.

Time is short, however. Laurent Nkunda’s continued talk of a national agenda risks massive escalation of violence and chaos. But if in turn his rebels are seriously threatened, there is the real chance of widespread revenge killings of the Tutsi minority, to which Rwanda may well respond. And if the fighting continues indefinitely, we may see repeats of Kiwanja on a much larger scale. The paths currently being followed by all armed groups will only lead to an intensification of the conflict, with dire consequences of further regional involvement.

Neil Campbell, EU Advocacy Manager of the International Crisis Group, recently returned from eastern Congo.

Thousands displaced in recent fighting

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Photo Marie Frechon/MONUC “Nearly 100,000 Congolese have been displaced in the last three months alone, and given the population in the areas attacked in the past few days, as many as 30,000 additional people could be forced from their homes”. Christian Science Monitor. 

Although the CNDP rebels have left Rumangabo, the situation on the ground is still dire because of the presence of so many armed militas in the area who are threatening the local population.  Alan Doss of the United Nations peace keeping force, Monuc, has raised concerns about harrassment and abuse by armed groups, including FARDC, the FDLR and the CNDP and warns that there are fifty thousand armed men in North and South Kivu. Monuc has sought the support of the United Nations Security Council for troop reinforcement to protect civilian populations in North Kivu.

In a letter to the Medical relief group here  Doss explains that a human rights violations can only be controlled if these armed groups are removed from villages, roads, markets and fields,

50 of the Virunga National Park rangers and their families are still safe in Goma and you can see photos here where Amir explains

“The area around Rumangabo is swamped with armed men, intent on pillaging the most vulnerable. A band came to the station yesterday and started breaking into the main building. The rangers fired in the air to scare them away. The bandits fired back in all directions. We heard later that they hit one of their own, killing him.

So it looks like things may begin to settle down. It’s an uneasy peace, but hopefully a situation that will allow us to go back to our business of protecting the park within a few days. We’ve made the decision to move the families out of the camp within a week. They will either go to an established refugee camp, where the big humanitarian agencies will provide them with food and healthcare, or hopefully, the situation will be sufficiently peaceful for us to be able to take them back to their homes at Rumangabo”.

Rebels retreat from Rumangabo

The United Nations Mission in DR Congo has informed the French Press Agency AFP that rebel forces have withdrawn from the military base in Rumangabo which they took following fierce fighting with the army.

“At the request of MONUC, the armed elements of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) have withdrawn from the Rumangabo military camp,” the UN mission (MONUC) have said.

The dangerous situation at Rumangabo has forced about 50 rangers and their families to be evacuated to Goma where a temporary camp has beeen established using sticks and tarps. This is a set back for gorilla conservation and speaking to ITV news  Innocent is quoted as saying “Nowadays in our forest it is very difficult to work because there are different groups of army who are in the park. You can see the FDLR, the Congolese army, the CNDP, it is very difficult to work,”. In the same article Emmanuel confirms that negotiations will continue to regain access to the Gorilla sector which has been in control of CNDP rebels and out of bounds for ICCN rangers for more than a year.

According to AFP “The Congolese president made a nationwide television appeal on Thursday for a renewed campaign against Nkunda, who claims to be protecting members of his Tutsi ethnic group in the region” but the United Nations has “promised to do everything possible to stop Congo’s eastern conflict from becoming a wider war after the DR Congo government accused Rwanda of sending troops over the border, a U.N. official said on Friday” to Reuters.

Rebels attack Rumangabo

We are alarmed with news reports that rebel forces have taken over the military base at Rumangabo. This has forced the ICCN to begin evacuating rangers from the Virunga National Park which is critical for their safety and survival, but will leave the gorillas and forests vulnerable.

According to AFP “The Democratic Republic of Congo’s envoy to the United Nations called on the Security Council to intervene to stop what he called an “imminent” Rwandan attack on the eastern DRC city of Goma.

Atoki Ileka told AFP that DRC authorities had “observed concentrations of Rwandan troops in the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi,” and that this suggested that an attack on Goma, located just across the frontier, was “imminent.”

Goma is the capital of Nord-Kivu province, which is at the center of renewed fighting between rebel and government forces that broke out August 28 in the east of the DRC.

“We have asked the Security Council to put the necessary pressure on Rwanda to prevent a new (Rwandan) aggression against DRC,” Ileka said, adding that troops in Rwandan uniforms had seized the Rumangabo military camp near Goma early Wednesday.”

Reuters have also just reported the invasion of Congo by Rwandan troops “Congo has accused neighboring Rwanda of sending troops across the border and fighting in support of a Congolese warlord. A Rwandan military spokesman denies the allegations.

North Kivu provincial Gov. Julien Mpaluku says Rwandan soldiers backing Congo warlord Laurent Nkunda crossed into Congo three days ago and headed for the frontier villages of Tshanzu and Bunagana. He said Wednesday that Rwandan troops were fighting in Rumangabo, a small village north of the regional capital, Goma”.

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Rumangabo is the headquarters of the Virunga National Park where our former CEO Emmanuel de Merode and his team of rangers including Diddy and Innocent are based. In a post on the Official Virunga National Park website where Samantha reports that heavy fighting had broken out between the army and Nkunda’s rebels. The fighting approached the park station (Rumangabo is the Park headquarters). Military tanks were apparently “firing on the hills where they believe the rebels to be; an army helicopter is also hovering, patroling the area”.

It is now certain that the CNDP (Nkunda’s troops) have taken control of the Rumangabo military base – a major blow to the army and a major threat to the Rangers at the station.

A post on the blog at Gorilla.cd states

“Emmanuel is doing his utmost to try and secure the station and get the remaining people out. Monuc – the UN team in DRC – thankfully knows Pierre and the others are all there and have told them not to move from the station as it is unsafe”.

This is of course terrible news for conservation as it not only puts the ICCN staff in a severely dangerous situation(over 120 rangers have died in the line of duty over recent years), but will further curtail conservation activities, patrols or management of the park. In addition, it is likely to escalate the problem of internal refugees which will deepen the environmental impact of the tens of thousands that are being displaced as they seek safety.

United Nations will not tolerate renewed destabilization

The situation on the ground in eastern Congo remains tense and the official website of the United Nations Monuc.org the peace keeping force have declared “The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) firmly condemns the recent declaration of Laurent Nkunda calling for an insurrection against the elected legitimate Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). MONUC and the international community will not tolerate this renewed attempt at destabilizing the political process.”

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Sensibilisation campaign organized by MONUC to protect street children. Photo Myriam Asmani / MONUC

Secretary-General’s Special Representative Alan Doss has asked for additional peacekeepers beyond the nearly 19,000 uniformed personnel already there to prevent the vast country from slipping back into “horrendous” conflict.

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Photo: MONUC

Responding to this condemnation from the United nations a spokesman for Nkunda, Bertrand Bisimwa, has denied that the rebel leader Laurent Nkunda was threatening to expand his rebellion. It has been captured in the press here and here

“”We haven’t said we are going to wage war outside of the borders of North Kivu,” Bisimwa told Reuters by telephone, responding to questions about Nkunda’s comments.

Nkunda’s statement broke months of silence, amid rumours that he was ill. His fighters have since August launched attacks on the Congolese army in eastern North Kivu province, forcing at least 100,000 people from their homes.

The United Nations, which has its biggest international peacekeeping force, around 17,000 strong, in Congo, said it was studying Nkunda’s comments, which seemed to threaten an escalation of the long-running conflict in North Kivu.”