/ 13 October 2008

AU to become ‘more involved’ in DRC

The African Union will become more involved in finding a durable peace in the conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), its chief, Jean Ping, said on Sunday as he wrapped up a three-day visit here.

”The African Union intends to become more involved in finding a solution to the crisis that is taking place now” in the eastern Nord-Kivu region, where fighting that resumed in August has displaced more than 100 000 people and caused widespread misery.

Ping, who on Saturday met President Joseph Kabila, top lawmakers, the head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission and Western diplomats, said he was ”satisfied” by his fact-finding trip.

While all the players wanted peace, he said, there were ”different perceptions” about how to achieve it.

The AU will also appoint a regional representative to the Nord-Kivu capital of Goma, Ping said, adding: ”Kinshasa is too far from the theatre of operations.”

Ping’s visit came after a call by Kabila for a renewed offensive against forces loyal to rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.

Fighting broke out August 28 with government troops and Nkunda’s CNDP, violating a ceasefire reached under the Goma peace accord in January.

Nord-Kivu’s hills appeared relatively calm on Sunday after fierce clashes in the area and in the nearby Ituri region earlier in the week, army officials said.

Rebels on Friday withdrew from Rumangabo army base in the eastern DRC at the UN mission in the DRC’s request after having taken it in heavy fighting.

DRC officials claim Rwandan troops aided Nkunda’s forces to capture Rumangabo, and accuse Kigali of planning to attack the provincial capital, Goma.

Rwandan officials deny the charges.

A five-year conflict pitting government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda, ended in 2003 after claiming more than three million lives. — Sapa-AFP