Thursday, June 5, 2008

UN Reports Relative Calm in Eastern Congo

MONUC reports the military situation remains relatively calm in the Democratic Republic of Congo although isolated clashes continue in the eastern provinces. It also said that hundreds of rebels in eastern DRC have surrendered to MONUC forces in the past week.

Clashes between the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) and Mai-Mai militia were reported in Orientale Province close to the Ofiyo river, six kilometers from Balobe in Bafwasende territory. According to an initial assessment, four FARDC soldiers and up to 30 Mai-Mai were killed.

In Ituri, dissidents belonging to the Nationalists and Integrationists Front (FNI) and the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front (FRPI) surrendered with their weapons to MONUC forces.

In North and South Kivu, sporadic violations of the cease-fire were reported. Elements of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), Mai-Mai groups, and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) regularly skirmish between themselves or against the FARDC. Incidents were reported between the CNDP and the PARECO in Kahira.

FARDC clashed with the PARECO in Mutebo. MONUC is investigating a report of several people killed during clashes between the CNDP and the PARECO. The clashes are believed to have taken place in the area of Kusuma, located between Katale and Mushake.

In South Kivu, several violations of the cease-fire were reported even though the signatories of the Goma Act of Engagement committed to a complete and immediate end to hostilities as well as to all acts of violence, movement, reinforcement and recruitment.

MONUC forces were also informed of forced recruitment of children by the Mai-Mai. Five minors aged between 14 and 15 years were abducted recently near Luzira and Ishovu. Clashes between various Mai-Mai groups of the Cobra Brigade took place in Muremana, north of Minova.

Even though these incidents are deplorable, they represent a lower level of violence than the region has seen in recent months.

The UN also reported even more positive news: More than 500 people presented themselves to the MONUC Mobile Operational Base (MOB) at Bambo, 120 kilometres north of Goma. This group was composed of some 260 "Mongol" Mai-Mai combatants, accompanied by 117 women and 154 children. They brought with them 24 rifles, 54 chargers, 13 grenades and a machine-gun. A day later, 46 combatants of the same Mai-Mai group surrendered at the same MONUC MOB.

In May 2008, 137 people comprising 82 armed foreign combatants, along with 55 dependents were repatriated within the framework of Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reinsertion and Reintegration (DDRRR) program to Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, their countries of origin. That brings to 524 the total repatriated by MONUC's DDRRR division in 2008.

Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds

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