/ 24 September 2007

Clashes break fragile truce in eastern DRC

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) soldiers and troops loyal to a renegade general broke an 18-day truce on Monday in the restive east of the country, officials said.

The clashes occurred in three areas in the Nord-Kivu province, they said.

”The insurgents attacked us on three fronts starting at four in the morning [2am GMT] near Mweso, Ngungu and Karuba,” Congolese armed forces (FARDC) second-in-command Colonel Delphin Kahimbi said in Nord-Kivu.

The three villages are located between 35km and 50km west of the provincial capital, Goma.

”We are in a situation of active defence. We are guarding our positions,” Kahimbi said.

A spokesperson for the politico-military movement of former general Laurent Nkunda accused the FARDC of launching the attack.

Congolese President Laurent Kabila ”declared war against us. He refused negotiations,” said spokesperson Rene Abandi, referring to Kabila’s recent four-day tour of Nord-Kivu.

”We were informed that the president gave the order to attack” the two Nkunda strongholds of Mushake and Kitchanga, close to the site of the last firefight, said Abandi, adding: ”The war is forced on us.”

This fighting breaks the truce observed maintained between the two groups since September 6, after 10 days of combat displaced 90 000 civilians in the region.

Government forces clashed with troops loyal to Nkunda in the Nord-Kivu territories of Masisi and Rutshuru between August 27 and September 6, when a fragile truce was agreed to under pressure from the United Nations. — Sapa-AFP