/ 2 March 2009

UN chief pledges more help for DRC refugees

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon vowed on Sunday to do more to help hundreds of thousands displaced by unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as he toured a camp in the east of the country.

”In working with the international community and the United Nations, a plan of action is being worked out with the prime minister’s office to increase humanitarian access to people in need,” Ban said, according to his spokesperson.

Ban, who had been in DRC since Saturday, pledged ”to bring further assistance to those displaced people” and help them return home, his spokesperson, Yves Sorokobi, said.

The remarks came as the UN chief toured a camp housing about 15 000 displaced people near the town of Kibati.

The UN mission in DRC, known by its acronym, Monuc, says about 600 000 people have been displaced as a result of months of fighting in eastern DRC.

Ban has called on all parties to seize the opportunity presented by the success of a joint operation by Rwandan and Congolese forces, which led to the capture of a key rebel leader.

Laurent Nkunda, who had led the Tutsi rebel group the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), was arrested by Rwandan forces on January 22.

His arrest in Rwanda was a dramatic turnaround, with Kigali accused only weeks earlier of backing the cashiered Congolese general.

Nkunda had claimed to be protecting local Tutsis from Rwandan rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), some of whom participated in the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda.

He accused Kinshasa and pro-government Mai Mai militia of backing the Rwandan rebels, while the Congolese authorities in turn accused Kigali of backing Nkunda.

Since Nkunda’s arrest, the CNDP has become a political party and a dozen pro-government militias in DRC’s eastern Sud-Kivu province have also agreed to stop fighting and began disarming this weekend.

Ban later went to Rwanda for talks with President Paul Kagame.

He will wind up a five-nation African tour, which has also taken him to South Africa and Tanzania, with a visit to Egypt on Monday. — Sapa-AFP