x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UN envoy arrives in Congo

A UN special envoy will meet with the president of Congo to try to end the fighting that has displaced 250,000 people.

People displaced by fighting, pray at a makeshift camp in Kibati in eastern Congo.
People displaced by fighting, pray at a makeshift camp in Kibati in eastern Congo.

GOMA, CONGO // A UN special envoy will meet with the president of Congo today to try to end the fighting between army and rebels since August that has displaced 250,000 people in the country's east. The former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo arrived in the capital Kinshasa today for his meeting with the President Joseph Kabila and is due to fly to the eastern city of Goma afterward, said the UN mission spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai.

Mr Obasanjo "meets Kabila today [Saturday] and in principle he is due in Goma today", Mr Mounoubai told The Associated Press by telephone from Kinshasa. He gave no other details. Mr Obasanjo was in Angola yesterday and told reporters there he had spoken to the rebel leader Laurent Nkunda by phone a day earlier. He said Mr Nkunda requested a face-to-face meeting and Mr Obasanjo said the groundwork would be laid for one. There was no word on when or where such a meeting would take place.

Mr Nkunda claims he is fighting to protect ethnic Tutsis from Hutu militias who fled to Congo after Rwanda's 1994 genocide. The mass slaughter left more than 500,000 dead, most of them Tutsis. Mr Obasanjo also said the Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos assured him no Angolan troops were in Congo, despite numerous reports of Angolans helping Congolese forces. Congo has called on Angola for help and some fear the crisis could draw in regional countries as it did during a devastating 1998-2002 war, which split the vast nation into rival fiefdoms and drew in half a dozen African armies, including Angola's.

Eastern Congo appeared quiet today, with no reports of fighting since Tuesday night, when the army and the rebels battled in a rare night-time firefight that left at least two government troops dead. That battle took place just north of the town of Kibati, where around 60,000 civilians are huddled in two massive camps. Worried about the refugee's safety and close proximity to the front lines, the UN refugee announced yesterday it would move the displaced next week from Kibati to a new site around 10 km to the west. Aid groups have expressed concern about rape and other forms of violence in the government-controlled camps.

*AP